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Volume 3.

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Chapter I. The Proclamation.

THE Bushranger travelled during the whole of the night with almost unabated speed towards the Bay, on the margin of which the cave was situate, where he hoped to learn tidings of Helen. Sturdy as his companion was, he more than once hinted to Brandon the expediency of a halt; for notwithstanding the frequent attacks which he made on the leg of the kangaroo, which he had suspended from his neck

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like a guitar so as to be handy to his jaws, he began to sink under the fatigue of long-protracted exertion.

As to Brandon, he ate nothing, and spoke little; scarcely replying to the questions and observations of his follower! but drinking copiously at every brook and spring that he passed by; for that fever of the soul had already seized him which consumes its victim like living fire!

Stopping only to allow his companion the rest needful for his further progress, Brandon pursued his way, hoping every moment that he should light on some indication of Helen's track, and earnestly wishing that she might adopt the same expedient in her present flight as she had practised when she had been forced to travel with himself. But he could see no trace of her steps; and although he was sometimes tempted to diverge from the direct course, in the hope that she might have chosen some tempting but delusive opening between the hills in her progress homewards, his researches

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ended only in disappointment, and uselessly consumed his time and strength.

The delay which these failures caused only added to his gloomy anger, and augmented his eagerness to arrive at the place of his destination. At last he reached the vicinity of the Bay; and then some caution became necessary lest he should fall into the hands of the emissaries of the Government.

Using great circumspection in his approach to the cave, keeping a good look-out on all sides, and carefully examining the ground for foot-marks, he drew near to the spot. As soon as he had a clear view of the Bay, he looked about for the vessel; but the brig was gone.

He then remained for some hours watching the parts in the vicinity of the cave; but he could see no sign of danger. Accustomed, however, to make use of all sorts of stratagems, in order to delude his enemies, he was distrustful of the quiet and calm which seemed to prevail in a place where recently all was life and commotion.

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In this mood he approached the front of the cave; but still he saw no sign of its being occupied. But on one side of the entrance, at its mouth, he saw a piece of paper attached in a recess sheltered from wet. Grough saw it also; and at the sight they stopped and looked at each other.

“Let us go on,” at last said Brandon, “death is better than this suspense.”

“Come on,” responded Grough; “life is not worth having without liquor. Let us try our plant.”

They approached the mouth of the cave, where the paper was affixed; and both read, at the same time, its significant heading:—


“Let us first search the cave,” said Brandon, “we shall have time enough to read that gammoning paper afterwards.” His eye, however, had rapidly caught part of its contents, and he felt a queer sort of uneasiness about it.

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They searched the cave; but they found no sign of inhabitants.

“There is no one here,” said Grough, chuckling.

“So it seems,” said Brandon, despondingly.

“What does the paper say?” asked Grough.

“Just what they all say—a bribe for treachery.”

“A bribe!” exclaimed Grough. “I suppose you mean a reward. Much good may it do them—the tyrants! as if one man in the bush would betray another! But how much is it?”

The qualification which the words “how much is it?” implied of the nature of Mr. Grough's virtuous resolve not to be tempted by the proclamation of the Government, grated on Brandon's ears disagreeably.

“You had better read it,” he said, “and see.”

Grough spelled it out, not without difficulty, commenting on the manifesto as he went on:—

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“ ‘Whereas one Mark Brandon, a prisoner of the Crown, has made his escape from Hobart Town, and has committed a piracy on the high seas, besides being guilty of various other high crimes and misdemeanors .….

“(I say, Mark, they lay it on thick.)

“…. ‘Crimes and misdemeanors; and is charged also with having forcibly abducted a young lady of the name of Helen Horton, lately arrived in the colony; and is suspected also of the murder of, or of some other foul dealing with, George Trevor, an ensign in his Majesty's service, …

“(That's the young chap, I suppose, that the natives speared.—Well, they are wrong there, at any rate.—But those beaks and constables will swear through a brick wall to any lie that suits them against a poor prisoner.)

“…. ‘Majesty's service;—This is to give notice that a reward of five hundred dollars …

“(Five hundred dollars! I say, Mark, five hundred dollars!)

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“… ‘Five hundred dollars will be given to any one who shall afford such information as may be the means of apprehending the said Mark Brandon …

“(Mark, you're worth five hundred dollars! That's something!)

“ ‘The said Mark Brandon; together with a free pardon …

“(A free pardon! I say, Mark, do you see that? A free pardon!—It's a dead set against you, Mark!—But do they think that any one would be such a blackguard as to inform against you? They don't know us, Mark!—Five hundred dollars and a free pardon! As if any body would trust to their promises! But there is something more!)

“ ‘——A free pardon, and a free passage to England.

“(By——, Mark,” exclaimed Grough again, “the Governor lays it on fat! Five hundred dollars—a free pardon—and a free passage to England! That's tempting! Isn't it? But I wouldn't trust the scoundrels! It's only a

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trap!—Don't you think so, Mark? And as to any one betraying you!.…)”

“Read on,” said Mark.

“ ‘And whereas a prisoner of the Crown, named James Swindell, and a prisoner of the Crown named Roger Grough, are also missing, and are supposed to have joined the said Mark Brandon in the bush;—This is to give notice, that a reward of one hundred dollars will be given for the apprehension of the said James Swindell, and of the said Roger Grough, or for such information as may lead to their conviction.

  “ ‘Signed, &c. &c.


“One hundred dollars for me!” exclaimed Grough, after a slight pause, as he concluded aloud the perusal of the proclamation. “A hundred dollars for me! Well—that's kind, isn't it? And another hundred for hang-dog Jemmy! Well—Jemmy's done for, so there's a hundred dollars lost for somebody.—But there's no free pardon for taking me;—you're the

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great man, Mark.—This is what comes of being a nob!—It would be worth somebody's while to take you, Mark, eh?—Wouldn't it?”

“Yours, perhaps,” replied Brandon, turning suddenly round, and confronting his associate with an eye and a look which few could stand under without quailing.—“Yours, perhaps,” repeated Brandon:—“but no;—you would not betray me;—I have no fear of that. First, because you are not such a rascal as to do it; and secondly, because you would certainly be hanged, my hearty, for the murder of the old woman and the child at Sandy Bay before you started.—No, my boy; you and I must escape or swing together.”

“To be sure, Mark; to be sure:—you and I, as you say, must get away or be strung up together. Not that there was any harm in killing the old woman—they would never hang a man for that!—and the child would shriek out! But how shall we get a boat or a vessel? We shan't have such another chance as we had with that brig in a hurry!”

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“We must trust to our luck, man. Leave me to find the way to do it. But we must not hang about here; there may be spies where we least think of. We must get away into the interior, where they can't follow us, or can't find us if they do.”

“Wherever you go, Mark, I'm the man to stick to you! And now for the stuff! Let us see if the plant is all right.”

To his infinite satisfaction, Grough found his beloved rum safe and untouched. He immediately proceeded to disinter it, taking several hearty pulls at the liquor by the way; and so afraid was he of losing sight of it again, that he determined to load himself with as much as he could carry. As most of it was contained in one-gallon stone bottles, which had been done for convenience' sake on board-ship, and to guard against the danger of drawing off spirit from the cask by candle-light in the hold; although the weight was heavy, it was so divided as to enable the freebooter to dispose of much of it about his person. He did not neglect to

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carry away also as large a supply as he could bear of ship's biscuit, and of tea and sugar. He took care to provide himself also with a large tin pannikin, and a small tea-kettle, which was among the stores which the marauders had stowed away previous to their first departure from the cave.

He also visited the spot where he had buried his share of the dollars despoiled from the Major; and after a little hesitation, caused by his desire to have them on the one hand, and the inconvenience of their weight on the other, he took them out of the hole, and deposited them in a canvass bag, which he suspended from his shoulders. Thus freighted, like a huge Dutch trader, had it not been for his vast bulk and prodigious strength, he would have been unable to stand under the weight of such a cargo; and, as it was, he found his motions seriously impeded by his cumbrous load. But his covetousness was stronger than his laziness.

Mark Brandon, while his companion was thus busily employed, and gloating over his

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dollars and his rum, removed his own share of the money, and quietly made his way to the hollow tree where he had secretly deposited the gold, which he had previously contrived to abstract from the participation of his comrades. Having made sure that Grough was entirely and intensely occupied with his stone bottle, he threw some handfuls of earth and stones into the hollow trunk, to disperse any opossums which might have made it their abode; then, hiding his fowling-piece under a neighbouring rock which shelved outwards, he nimbly climbed the tree, and dropped down within the ample cavity.

As soon as his feet touched the bottom, he became aware by the jingling of the coin, that his treasure was safe. He found it rather difficult to get out again; but, by applying his two hands to the sides of the opening above, which he could only just reach, by a vigorous effort he raised himself up, and descended the trunk.

Satisfied by this inspection, that it was a safe place for a “plant,” he dropped into it the large

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bag of dollars which he had removed from the hole in the ground. This he did in order to hide the money from his companion, fearing that his avarice might be too powerfully stimulated by a knowledge of such an amount of dollars at his command, and which would form so pleasing an addition to a “free pardon” and “a passage to England.”

For he had already begun to be suspicious of the rascal with whom he was temporarily associated; and he bore in mind the accent and the manner of his “friend,” as he read and dwelt on the tempting offer of reward promised by the Government for Brandon's capture. He immediately rejoined him, however, with a countenance entirely divested of all appearance of distrust; and he took advantage of his comrade's occupation, to revolve in his mind the expediency of shooting him through the head on the spot, and of thereby removing all danger of betrayal from that quarter.

But on further thought, he considered that the brute would be useful to him, as the lost

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Mr. Silliman had been, in carrying the load of spirit and other articles of comfort, with which he was doing him—Mark Brandon—the favour to load himself. He resolved, therefore, to abide with him until the fellow had served his purpose; the more particularly as he would be an useful auxiliary in the event of being attacked by the natives. He had no doubt, that, after he had decided upon his place of refuge—and had possession of the girl, perhaps—he should easily be able to dispose of his thick-headed associate when expedient; and in the mean time, that he could make use of him;—reserving to himself the right, however, of instantly dispatching him, should he discover any strong symptoms of treachery, which, he relied, the animal was too stupid entirely to conceal.

Having come to this cool determination, he accepted his friend's offer to partake of about a pint of rum; and grasping his comrade's hand with an expression of most hearty good-will and confidence, they both swore over the liquor an eternal attachment—Brandon having already

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resolved to slaughter the huge oaf to whom he was vowing friendship, whenever the fit occasion should arrive; and Grough having determined in his own mind to deliver up his chum to the gallows, and claim the reward, on the first convenient opportunity.

These two worthies, having thus transacted the business which they had to do in that part of the country, and Brandon having made a last search for Helen, departed lovingly together, with lies on their lips, and treachery in their hearts, in the direction which Brandon had planned, towards the Western Coast; for although there was very little chance of a vessel or a boat nearing that side of the island, he was not without a hope, which he could not avoid cherishing, of meeting by some lucky accident with the beautiful girl whom he had lost, and for whose possession he longed with all the ardour of his sanguine and impassioned nature.

The social community of the outlaws, however, was presently interrupted by other alarms, which, while they stimulated the inclination of

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Grough to betray his companion, were the means of aggravating the suspicions of Brandon, who redoubled his precautions to guard against surprise and treachery.

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Chapter II. Suspicion and Distrust Breed Fear and Treachery.

THEY had not proceeded far before they came to a huge blue gum-tree, on which was fastened, by a wooden pin, another copy of the proclamation which the Bushranger and his companion had seen at the entrance of the cave. Grough read it over again, and seemed to dwell rather meditatively on the reward of “dollars” and “pardon.”—Brandon marked his fellow's look, but said nothing.

The sight of this second handbill, however, made Brandon for the moment more suspicious

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of other enemies than of his companion, and he looked about uneasily:—

“The enemy seems to be on this track,” he said; “we must shift a little more to the coast.”

Grough was rather inclined to proceed in a northerly direction towards the town; but this manœuvre was gently opposed by Brandon. They continued their course to the coast, therefore, for about half a mile, when, fastened on a peppermint tree, they beheld another copy of the Governor's proclamation. Grough cast his eyes round on all sides with an odd and doubtful expression: Brandon looked to the primings of his fowling-piece, and kept to the right of Grough so that his barrel thrown over his left arm might naturally point towards his companion.

“Proclamations seem to grow in these parts,” remarked Grough.

“I don't think this is the best way for us after all,” said Brandon. “They will be looking out for me near the coast.”

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“And for me too.”

“And for you too,” repeated Brandon, thoughtfully.

Turning sharp round, he retraced his steps, with Grough by his side. He thought that his comrade seemed inclined to stick to him more than ever.—But he was determined to follow out his own plan.

He then made a start in the direction of the north-west, keeping clear, however, of his previous route when he was accompanied by Helen, and having it in his mind either to climb the mountainous ridge to the right of the opening which he had passed before, or to try to go round it. But after about a quarter of a mile's walk he encountered another ghost of the hateful proclamation!

“Another!” said Grough.

“They seem to be determined to hem us in with their bribes of dollars and pardons,” said Brandon, eyeing his companion.

“It's a great temptation to a prisoner,” observed Grough, sentimentally;—“and they

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that did it know it. Not that I would be such a rascal as to betray a chum! Sooner than turn nose, I'd rather … I'd .. rather.…”

“Rather what?” said Brandon, drily.

“Why you don't suspect me, do you?”

“Not I: you know that your fate is bound up with mine, and that it is to your interest not to betray me.”

“I don't know that,” replied Grough, a little doggedly. “It would be to my interest, perhaps, to get the dollars and the free pardon; but may I be hanged like a dog, and sink into eternal flames, if I ever betray a friend!”

“Now then,” said Brandon, “you have read the Governor's proclamation; will you stay behind and give information of me if you like; or will you go with me and take your chance of our seizing a boat together, and of escaping from the colony?”

“Which will I do? Do you think I would hesitate for a moment?” replied Grough, who was puzzled to determine in his own mind which was the likeliest way of his being able

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to deliver up his friend to the authorities and of claiming the reward. “What will I do?” he repeated, after having revolved the pros and cons in his mind as well as the short time afforded to him for his decision would enable him, “why, follow you, Mark, to the world's end, and stick to you, my boy, like a barnacle!”

This friendly resolve he had come to from the calculation that, if he left Brandon and sought to give information to the authorities of his comrade's whereabouts, he might possibly be tried and hanged before the value of his information could be ascertained; but if, on the contrary, he accompanied his friend, some opportunity would occur, as he flattered himself that Brandon was quite unsuspicious of his intention, to enable him to fall suddenly on him, when he was asleep perhaps, and bind him; and so deliver him alive to the governor in camp.

Brandon, on the other hand, had made up his mind, before he asked the question, to shoot

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his comrade on the spot if he refused to accompany him, as he judged it would be dangerous to let him go; but, as he wanted his services to carry various necessaries into the bush for his convenience as well as safety, he let the huge oaf hug himself with the idea that he had the cleverness to deceive one who, by his art and daring, had acquired for himself, pre-eminently, the title of “The Bushranger;” and knowing well that nothing more effectually blinds a treacherous plotter, of Grough's description, than to suffer him to delude himself with the idea that he is the deceiver, he allowed his companion to enjoy, undisturbed, his secret satisfaction at being able “to put such a dodge on Mark.”

With this thought, he extended his hand to his comrade, and wringing it strongly and with much apparent emotion, declared, solemnly that “he would rather have such a man as he was to stand by him, than a dozen cowardly and treacherous rascals whom an honest man could place no reliance on!”

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Grough expressed, in his rough way, his utmost satisfaction at this exhibition of the warmth of his comrade's attachment, and swore a prodigious oath to signify that he would be true to him to the last. He walked on by his side, therefore, full of glee, for he considered the dollars and the free pardon as his own already; while Brandon made up his mind, definitively, to blow his friend's brains out the moment they arrived at their place of destination.

In this amiable disposition of mind towards each other the two proceeded on their way, keeping to the right of their former route, for Brandon still cherished the hope that he might possibly fall in with Helen by the way, for it was clear that she had not reached the cave, and the probability was that she was lost in the bush;—or possibly she might have been taken away by the natives, though that was not likely. There was reason to conclude, however, that she had not been killed in the fight, for in that case, her body would have been found.—

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Perplexed and irritated by these conflicting surmises he determined to visit the scene of the fight again, and search narrowly for her remains, and, if necessary, communicate with the wounded officer, if he still remained there.

As to the risk of being taken he did not care much for that, as he considered that he was more than a match for the two soldiers in the bush, and that if it came to the worst it would only be making a fight of it. To this step, however, he would not have been inclined, for his maxim was “never to give away a chance,” had he not been incited by his burning passion for the girl for whose repossession he would have incurred almost any danger.

With this resolve he proceeded rapidly on, but his companion was so loaded with his various assortment of useful and necessary articles for the bush, that soon after nightfall he expressed his utter inability to proceed a single step further; and as they found themselves in the vicinity of a little streamlet, they

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arranged themselves for the night. Grough disencumbered himself of his load, and with an affectionate earnestness, which manifested itself by many endearing expressions, he embraced a bottle of the rum which formed a considerable part of the bulk of his provisions. Hastening to extract the cork, he applied it to his mouth, and indulged in a prodigious gulp of the liquor.

“You seem to enjoy it,” observed Mark.

“If one could only get as much rum every day as a man could drink,” replied the other, “I wouldn't mind whether I was prisoner or free! Rum's the stuff for me!”

“And how much have you left for me?”

“How much! why, this bottle holds two quarts.—Drink, Mark—drink.—There isn't such stuff in the colony! It's downright beautiful! I'll fill my skin with it this blessed night, and then I shall have the less to carry tomorrow! This night I'll be jolly drunk if I never am again! With a pipe of baccy in your mouth, and a bottle of rum by your side,

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what does a man want more! Eh, Mark?—Here, man, take the bottle.”

Brandon took the bottle, and then selecting the pannikin, in the dusk, from the heap of articles on the ground, he fetched in it some water from the stream, to which he added a small quantity of the spirit, which he drank leisurely.

Grough observed this moderation with extreme surprise! That any one should refrain from taking his fill of rum when he had the opportunity, was a prodigy that surpassed his comprehension! There must be a reason for it, he thought sagely to himself. Why should Mark not drink?—Was he afraid of getting drunk?—By——, that was it!—More fool he! Then he, Grough, could drink Mark's share and his own too! Capital!

With this he was about to put his beloved bottle to his mouth again; when, suddenly, a thought struck him—a most awkward thought! Perhaps Brandon was meditating to do the same thing to him which he was meditating to

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do to Brandon? To fall upon him, and secure him, and deliver him up to the Government for the sake of the reward! That was the reason why Mark would not drink! He, Mark, wanted him, Grough, to drink, and get drunk, so as to be able to master him easily!—What a rascal!—But here was a particularly disagreeable fix!—If he didn't drink, what was the use of the rum which he had carried all that way? And if he did, and got drunk, he should be entirely helpless, and at the mercy of Brandon, to do with him as he pleased!

The shock of this cruel dilemma was most horrid! He held the rum in his hand which he dared not drink! Life had lost its salt and its savour! Bushranging had lost its relish!—What was to be done?—The only thing was to wait till Mark fell asleep, and then to fall on him.—To this end he resolved to keep his eyes open diligently, though fatigue and travel had wearied his faculties sorely.

“You don't drink,” said Brandon, as Grough placed the bottle on the ground with his hand

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still on it, and with a countenance which, even in the gloom, Mark observed. was ludicrously sorrowful.

“Better not drink it all up at once;—you know we shall want it in the bush.”

“You have changed your mind rather suddenly,” replied Brandon, “I thought you were determined to take your fill this time?”

“Better keep it for times when we shall want it; the best thing to do now is to go to sleep, so as to be fresh for to-morrow.—I suppose, Mark, you feel sleepy as I am,” said Grough; wishing by this considerate suggestion to put it into his friend's head to lose no time about it.

“I am very tired, and very sleepy,” replied Mark; “and I feel that I shall be off in a few minutes.”

“So shall I,” replied Grough, making an effort to keep his eyes open.—“We will both of us go to sleep,” he continued aloud, and then saying to himself, “If I do, I'm d——d.”

“You will be a clever fellow!” thought

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Mark on his side, “if you catch me asleep! Depend on it, my fine fellow, that Mark is always wide awake!”

“I shall be asleep in a minute, Mark.”

“And so shall I.”

Presently Mark breathed heavily.

“I wonder if he is shamming!” thought Grough.—“But I am up to that dodge too!” Accordingly he performed a deep and regular snore.

“That rascal is not asleep,” said Brandon to himself; “he is feigning for some purpose! Does he think to come over me that way! the thrice long-eared ass! Does he think that Mark Brandon is to be taken in by his contrivances! Shall I shoot him now? No:—I want him to carry his load for me, and to assist in beating off the natives, for it is more than probable that we shall meet with them before long in this direction, and for his own sake he will not fail me then. Besides, it will be better to appear to the young officer as two to two, should it be necessary for me to communicate

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with him.—No, I will not shoot him yet.—I will make use of him, and then punish him for his meditated treachery.—But, positively, I think the brute sleeps.”

Mark spoke to him in a low tone, to which Grough made no answer;—he then approached him cautiously, and satisfied himself that it was no sham; for in fact, the first copious draft of rum which the creature had imbibed was sufficient to dispose him, wearied as he was, irresistibly to sleep.

The Bushranger, now stepping with the utmost caution, withdrew silently from the spot, and continued his course till he arrived at a thicket about a quarter of a mile distant from the place where he had left his companion, and burying himself among the densest of the bushes, he endeavoured to compose himself to sleep.—But the thought of his precarious position; the ill-concealed design of his companion; and the gnawing fury of his disappointment at the loss of the girl on whom he had set his whole soul, for a long time kept him awake.—But at

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last he was able to procure a few minutes of fitful slumber.

His fears, however, haunted him in his dreams; and he awoke with the sensation of being suddenly grasped by a powerful hand on his collar!—It was only his neck-handkerchief which, in the uneasy position in which he lay, had become tightened round his neck.

He found it impossible, however, to sleep again. He made his way back, therefore, to his companion, whom he found still snoring. He sat by his side for more than two hours, cold and cheerless, for he feared to light a fire lest some enemy on the look-out should discover him by its light. At last the dawn of day came; and then, thinking that his companion had slept long enough, and being anxious to get towards the sugar-loaf hill, he awoke him, by putting his hand to his shoulder.

“Hands off!” cried Grough. “D——n me! you shan't take me alive! What! Mark! is it you? By——! I thought it was some of the

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constables that had got hold of me! By——! and haven't you been asleep!”

“I could not sleep; so I have been watching for both of us.”

“You haven't been asleep! and I have!” said Grough, rubbing his eyes, and endeavouring to reconcile the fact of Mark's forbearance with his own previous suspicions; “well, there is something in this I can't make out!”

“What can't you make out?”

“What can't I make out?” replied Grough, a little confused;—“why—I can't make out why it is that you don't sleep after you have been awake I don't know how many nights!”

“It is well,” replied Mark, quietly, “that one of us can keep awake; for if we were both to fall asleep together, we might be surprised and taken before we knew where we were—as you might have been last night.”

Grough was considerably puzzled, and could not make out at all the reason why Mark had not seized on him when he was asleep and defenceless, as he certainly would have done

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to Mark. “Mark is up to some game,” he thought; “but what is it?”—The uncertainty of Mark's object troubled the worthy Mr. Grough exceedingly; but disguising his thoughts as well as he could, he proceeded to load himself with his goods and chattels, taking, on this occasion, only a very moderate sip of rum, in which he was joined by Mark; and postponing his breakfast until he should have the opportunity of bringing down a kangaroo, which he did not doubt of being able to effect shortly, as the fresh marks of their passage were visible in the grassy gorge which they were traversing.

Leaving them to pursue their way, and to meditate on their mutually-resolved treachery towards each other, exemplifying the life of fear and distrust which criminals who take to the bush, sooner or later, invariably suffer, the course of this narrative turns to the fate of Helen and her fellow-captive.

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Chapter III. Helen a Prisoner with the Natives.

AT the time when the natives attacked the two bushrangers near the Sugar-loaf hill, Helen and the unfortunate Mr. Silliman had been made to lie down on the ground by Brandon while he stood concealed behind the thicket towards which he had enticed his pursuers for the purpose of shooting them securely as they advanced.

It was from the accident of their recumbent position that the spears of the natives passed over their heads; and it was owing to the same circumstance, perhaps, that the savages, seeing them down, forbore to wreak their fury on them.

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As the crowd of males pressed forward, driving back the white people, the females followed, not less cruel than the first, perhaps, in their treatment of their enemies, but who, on this occasion, were struck with the appearance of Helen, whom they were not long in discovering to be of the same sex as themselves.

At the same time they beheld the prostrate form of Jeremiah, and were surprised to observe that he had his hands tied behind his back; and they immediately guessed that so palpable an act of coercion had been committed by his enemies. But seeing that he was secured from doing any injury, and that he was entirely at their mercy, with the caprice not inconsistent with their wild natures and with their sex they postponed putting him to death, with the intention of keeping him for the performance of certain ceremonies which, time out of mind, had been in usage with the original inhabitants of the country.

After poking at him, therefore, with their

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spears for a little while, to see, perhaps, how he would comfort himself under the infliction of that preliminary trial, they signified their desire that he should stand up, which he did accordingly, endeavouring by all the signs and gestures which he could think of to excite the compassion of these black furies.

At the same time, others of the women assisted Helen to rise from the ground, when they immediately proceeded to examine her dress with great curiosity, and showed a strong disposition to possess themselves of it, a proceeding which, if they had persisted in it, would rapidly have reduced the poor girl to the same primitive condition in that respect as themselves; but as the fight raged hotly, and as the guns of the white men continued to send forth their thunder, they were too much alarmed and hurried in their movements to carry their design into execution.

Presently, also, the number of killed and wounded of their countrymen became so numerous, some of the balls fired by Trevor

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and the corporal hitting one or two of the native women whom they wounded slightly, that the alarm of the females was too great to allow them to remain so close to the scene of action. They retired, therefore, to a little distance in the rear, compelling Helen to accompany them, and driving Jeremiah before them with the points of their spears, one or two of the younger girls not being able to restrain their laughter, notwithstanding the seriousness of the fight which was going on, at the curious grimaces exhibited by that unfortunate gentleman as he made little convulsive leaps in accordance with the application of the stimulating spears administered behind. Helen, however, did not lose her presence of mind, even in this urgent time of peril.

At first she succumbed to the natural terror of finding herself in the hands of savages excited to fury by the fierceness of the fight; but when she saw that the native women refrained from putting her to an immediate death, she gathered courage, and was inspired with the hope of

  ― 38 ―
being able to save herself, as Trevor and a supporter were at hand combating for her rescue.—No sooner, therefore, had their new captors stopped at the entrance of the forest, than she began to think of escaping.—She communicated her intention to her companion:—

“Mr. Silliman, now is the time to make an attempt to join our friends; try to get your hands free; these are only women who are around us. Come towards me and I will untie your arms.”

Jeremiah was still loaded with the variety of articles which the uncommiserating Grough had packed upon him, and which prevented him from exercising much activity in his motions; but he endeavoured to comply with Helen's intimation by sidling towards her with a shuffling step which the natives regarded with astonishment, not being able to make out whether it was the performance of a sort of war dance, or a natural mode of progression habitual with the white people. They suffered him, therefore, to place himself before Helen; but they no

  ― 39 ―
sooner perceived the object for which the white man's movement had been effected, than they interfered promptly with spears and waddies, and while some thumped Jerry as well as they could get at him through his manifold encumbrances, others threatened Helen with the points of their spears.

“Wait,” said Helen, “till I can find an opportunity to release you; then cast aside your load, and snatch some of their own weapons from the women, and let us fight for our lives.”

“I will fight for you, miss,” replied Jeremiah, “till I die! But what can we do against such a herd of black wretches? Those spears are uncommon sharp, although they are made only of wood; they are indeed! I have felt them!”

“Never fear the wounds that a wooden spear can make,” replied Helen; “we must fight for our lives, and try to join those who have come to rescue us.”

“You see, miss, I can do nothing with my

  ― 40 ―
hands bound behind me this way; and that ugly rascal has tied them so strong and so tight, that it is impossible for me to loose them myself.—But never mind me, miss; try to save yourself. They would not hurt you perhaps. Suppose you ran off and kept round to the left, so as to avoid the natives and join your friends. Anything is better for you than to be killed and eaten by these savages, for they are all cannibals, I can tell by the looks of them! One old woman,” pointing with his head to a venerable lady of terrific aspect, who had been eyeing Jerry in a very affectionate manner, “has been looking at me in a very odd way! We shall both of us be eaten, miss, if the savages get the better, that's certain.”

While Jerry was speaking, two or three of the natives with faltering steps, were seen coming over the narrow space of plain between the scrub and the wood, and at the sight of their wounded countrymen, the women set up a wail of sorrow, and looked fiercely at their white prisoners, whom they were about to put

  ― 41 ―
to death. But the old woman, whom Jerry had already remarked as regarding him with longing eyes, which he construed into an excessive desire to eat him, interposed, as it seemed with authority, and prevented them. She said something to her companions, and pointed to the spot where the sound of the guns and the shouts of the fighting natives were heard; and the rest of the women submitted with deference to her command.

She had greater difficulty in holding back the bleeding natives from taking their revenge on the white people in their power; and, although they were bleeding and faint from their wounds, they exhibited a ferocious determination, which made Helen turn pale and Jeremiah cry out with fright.

But the old woman stood before the prisoners and, with arms upraised, vociferated with an energy and a volubility which betokened that she was an adept in the management of that most fearful of all weapons—a woman's tongue! Besides, it appeared that

  ― 42 ―
she had some pretensions to be obeyed, for the women listened to her with deference, and made no attempt to support the assault of the wounded males.

Whether their wounds, therefore, by producing faintness and weakness, made the men less firm to their resolves, or that they were fairly mastered and borne back by the eloquence of the old woman, they desisted, for the present at least, from their determination and laid themselves down on the ground; while some of the native women, to whom they were attached by particular nearness of kin or other ties, endeavoured to stop the bleeding of their wounds by such simple means as their little knowledge suggested.

But now the firing, which had been very sharp, ceased, and the whole body of natives fled through the covert towards the wood, bearing with them some of their wounded companions. It was fortunate for Helen, at this moment of their exasperation after defeat, that she had been taken possession of by the females at

  ― 43 ―
the head of whom was the old woman who extended her protection also to the white man; but it was not less fortunate for Jeremiah that he had his hands still tied behind him; for, in that condition, he presented no provocation to the men, who, seeing that he was incapable of defending himself or of acting on the offensive towards themselves, hesitated to use their waddies on his skull—which was, besides, protected by the load of goods which surmounted his head and shoulders. Without delaying to make inquiries, however, as to how the white man and woman got there, or why their lives had been spared by those who had them at their disposal, the black man, who acted as the chief of the party, gave the signal for immediate retreat.

Upon this, without noise, the whole of the sable troop made their way rapidly through the forest, the men supporting such of the wounded as they could hastily convey with them, and the women leading the van, with Helen and Jerry in the midst, whom they forced forward

  ― 44 ―
notwithstanding their resistance and the urgent appeals which Helen despairingly made to be left behind. Seeing the difficulty with which the white man walked with his hands tied behind him one of the women released him from his bonds.

Thus was Helen exposed to a new peril, the more to be dreaded as it was uncertain, and that she could expect no mercy from those who had so severely suffered from the thunder of the white people in the disastrous fight. Poor Jerry already considered himself as roasted and eaten; and the wretched Helen doubted whether instant death would not be the mildest fate to which she could be condemned. In this way they travelled without stopping for the remainder of the day.

When the darkness of the night came on, although the moon afforded light enough to travel for those who were acquainted with the country, the natives stopped. This halt Helen thought a fortunate circumstance, and she determined to take advantage of the opportunity and endeavour to escape.

  ― 45 ―

Chapter IV. A Native Bivouac.

THE natives had divided before reaching their resting place for the night, into two bodies; one of them proceeding towards the north, and the other body, by whom Helen and Jeremiah were detained, continuing their course in a westerly direction. The latter party consisted of about twenty males and nearly the same number of females, but there were no children, which made Helen conjecture that they had not yet arrived at their place of ultimate destination.

The spot which they had fixed on for their encampment was a deep dell, shut in by high hills on either side, partially covered with

  ― 46 ―
wood. There was a spring of water near the bottom, at which the natives drank copiously, and Helen and her fellow-prisoner, following their example, did the same, their captors not seeming to take much heed how they disposed of themselves. This apparent neglect seemed to favour Helen's project to escape.

The men now busied themselves in erecting their breakwinds from the bark of the trees which were at hand; but they made them, as Helen remarked, of very scanty dimensions, and they were insecurely put together. The women set themselves about collecting dry wood for fires, of which they made eight or nine heaps opposite the breakwinds. Their next labour was to kindle a fire, for the two lighted sticks, always carried cross-ways by one of the party, had been extinguished in the confusion consequent on the fight, and it was necessary to raise a flame in the manner practised by the natives on such occasions.

Two or three of the party searched for a piece of dry wood suited to their purpose,

  ― 47 ―
which one of them soon found. This was placed on the ground and held firmly, while one or two more stood round ready to aliment the flame, when kindled, with dry leaves and bark, scraped into very thin shavings.

In the mean time, another native had prepared a pointed piece of wood about eighteen inches long, and a inch or an inch and a half in diameter. This piece of wood he took care to select from a dead branch, choosing, in preference, a piece of the stringy bark tree.

A hole was now indented in the first piece of wood with a hard stone, and the end of the second piece, previously pointed with a stone axe, inserted in it. One of the natives now took the piece of pointed wood between his hands, and with a rapid motion turned the point inserted in the cavity of the other piece of wood backwards and forwards as if he was trying to bore a hole. This manœuvre he continued for nearly a minute, and when his hands began to get weary, another native relieved him, and then the second was relieved

  ― 48 ―
by a third, and so on, never allowing the friction of the two pieces of wood to cool down, till at last they elicited fire.

As soon as this took place, the dry leaves and bark shavings were pressed around the point of contact, the natives assisting the nascent conflagration with their breath, lying down on their bellies to blow the fire into flame.

By this ingenious process, in the course of about half an hour they procured a light, with which they ignited the dry heaps of wood previously collected, and in a few minutes the dell was illuminated with the light of their numerous fires.

While this was going forward, Helen thought that, the whole of the party being so busily occupied, now was the time to escape. She communicated her intention in a few words to her companion, and directed him to ascend the steep hill on one side, while she did the same on the other, and to join her at the entrance of the glen, about half a mile distant.

  ― 49 ―

Jeremiah readily acquiesced, although he had little hope of escaping from so many enemies; and they immediately began to carry their plan into effect.

Helen sauntered leisurely up the hill on her side, while Jeremiah did the same on his, looking about them in the dusk as if they were examining objects here and there from curiosity. In this way Jerry had nearly reached the appointed opening, when on turning a bushy mimosa tree he beheld to his horror two great eyes which, from the contrast with the black face, seemed to him preternaturally white, staring at him from the other side.

He had sufficient presence of mind not to call out, but he endeavoured to catch sight of Helen, which he presently did; and he observed at the same time that a dark form followed her, which was visible to him as he surveyed her progress sideways, but which to her, doubtless, had been concealed. He guessed at once that he had been dogged by a native, as he saw Helen was followed; but

  ― 50 ―
as it was incumbent on him to endeavour to join her at all events, he stepped on boldly, taking no notice of the spy by whom he had himself been watched.

“Courage,” said Helen, in a low voice, as soon as she became conscious of his approach, “we may yet be saved!”

“You are followed by one of the natives,” replied Jerry, in the same low tone, “and so am I. We are discovered.”

“Could you not catch hold of the one behind you and secure him?” said Helen with desperation.

“It would be folly, miss; the two would only set up a howl which would bring down the whole gang on us. Better go back as we came.”

“We cannot help it,” said Helen, after a short pause; “but it is hard to surrender ourselves again to the mercy of the savages: but, as it must be so, our best course is to go quietly back again……”

“It would be better to go back together,”

  ― 51 ―
interposed Jerry; “it will seem more natural—as if we had been looking for each other.”

“Perhaps so;—and it may remove any suspicion that they may have of our meditating an escape, so that we shall have the better chance another time. Come, we must return.”

They returned therefore, together, the two natives following them closely, but without making any attempt at concealing themselves, as they had done previously. Jeremiah, wishing to take a survey of them, perceived by the light of the moon that one of them was a man, and that the other was the same old woman who had interfered in his behalf before. As he had no idea of her having any other design on him than to eat him, the present evidence of her inclination in keeping him so pertinaciously in view, aggravated his painful anticipations.

During their departure, the natives had succeeded in catching some opossums, generally to be found in great abundance scampering about the trees on moonlight nights, and which were now scorching on the various fires. The women

  ― 52 ―
also contributed their store of gum, which they had been diligent in collecting during the march, and which they had gathered from the acacia trees as they passed, bit by bit; each woman sticking the whole of her fragments together as she proceeded, so as to make a round mass as big as a cricket-ball which she placed in a little net about as large as a small landing-net, made from the flexible fibres of the stringy-bark tree, and which she carried suspended round her neck.

Of these balls of gum, some big and some little, they produced nearly twenty, most of which they threw on the fires to simmer. The old lady who had taken Jerry under her particular protection, brought part of a singed opossum and a small ball of hot gum to the prisoners, as they sat, side by side, on the grass. Helen received the edibles with signs of thanks; but the opossum had a disagreeable smell, and the gum was boiling hot, so that the delicacies remained untouched.

Jerry now reminded Helen that he had a

  ― 53 ―
store of provisions more congenial to their tastes in the knapsack of the bushranger, besides a variety of articles which might be useful in propitiating the natives. They discussed for some time the propriety of opening their wares, not a little surprised that the savages had not already laid violent hands on them; but there was a reason for that as they discovered afterwards.

It was agreed, however, that they should make use of the biscuit and the tea and sugar, of which Jerry was the bearer; and he began to unfasten the knapsack for that purpose. But he no sooner manifested his intention “to break bulk,” as the nautical term is, than the same old woman came briskly up to them, for they were sitting by themselves—in the centre of the black groups indeed, but unmolested by their masters. The old woman seemed at first inclined to forbid the opening of the knapsack, but curiosity most likely prevailing, she suffered the white man to proceed.

Jerry therefore produced from the reservoir some biscuit and some tea, and white loaf-sugar.

  ― 54 ―
The old woman gazed at these articles very earnestly, but did not offer to touch them.

He then unpacked from his stores two pannikins, and a small tin tea-kettle. These articles also the old lady regarded with much admiration, and she waited to see their uses.

Jerry made signs to her to signify that he wanted the kettle filled with water. This the woman readily comprehended, and she called out in a loud voice to the women who were grouped together at a fire behind those where the men were assembled. At the sound of her voice a tall female native immediately came forth, and stood before her.

The old woman said something to her in a tone of command, which the other promptly obeyed; for taking up the kettle, she proceeded to the spring and filled it with water, with which she returned, lifting up her legs on high, and with a very grave aspect.

This command, and the ready obedience which followed it, made Helen and Jeremiah surmise, that the old lady was some person

  ― 55 ―
possessing authority; but what the nature of her rank or power was, they could not understand.

Jerry now poured some of the water from the tea-kettle on to the ground, an act which the old woman beheld with much surprise, as she could not comprehend the reason of his wasting water, which had been fetched at the cost of some trouble; and when Jerry put into the remaining water half a handful of tea, and placed the tea-kettle on the fire, the old woman's surprise increased; for she expected, of course, that the strange thing, for of metal she had no idea, would be burnt. But when the kettle boiled, and steam issued from the spout, the native could not restrain her astonishment, and she uttered a sound difficult to express in writing, but nearly resembling the neighing of a horse. This exclamation quickly brought around her the whole body of the natives, both men and women, who gazed at the phenomenon of the boiling water, with the most lively expressions of wonder.

  ― 56 ―

Jerry now offered the canvass-bag containing the white sugar to Helen, together with a pannikin. Helen selected a small lump, which she put in her pannikin, and Jerry poured on it some of the boiling tea from the kettle. As the water was ejected from the spout, the crowd shouted with admiration, but they did not fail to observe that it was changed in colour, a circumstance which seemed to give rise to much comment among them. One of the men who was standing close to them, seized the bag of sugar which he was about to dispose of in some way, when the old woman snatched it away from him, giving him at the same time a sound rating, in which she seemed to be a great proficient, for the man hung down his head and slunk back behind the others. She then restored the bag to Jerry.

Jerry wondered who this important old lady could be, who seemed to exercise so powerful a control over the tribe; and as he judged it was of importance to propitiate so dignified a personage, although she was as little encumbered

  ― 57 ―
with robes of royalty or any other robes as the rest of the black community, he took from the bag a tolerably big lump of sugar, and presented it to her with much ceremony.

The old lady hesitated for a moment or two before she took it; but when she had it in her hand she viewed it with much indifference, mistaking it for a piece of chalk, of which there is plenty to be found in some parts of the island. In order to satisfy herself on this point, she called to her one of the men, who stooped down, and on whose back she attempted to make a white mark with the stuff. But as the sugar was hard and serrated, and as the old woman's hand was vigorous, instead of producing the pigmental effect which she expected, it only excoriated the black man's back, who uttered a loud roar from the smart, which was greeted with the general merriment of his brethren.

The old lady smelled at the white stuff, but that gave her no information. She then handed it to the native who stood near her, and he

  ― 58 ―
smelled it, and handed it to the next, who passed it on to the others, and so they all smelled it, but no one of them could make anything of it; and the white stuff was returned to Jerry.

Jerry then took another little bit, which he put into his mouth and ate, making signs to the old woman to do the same, but she shook her head, and declined to make the experiment.

While this examination of the lump of sugar was going on, Helen had been sipping her tea from the pannikin, and soaking her biscuit in the hot liquid, in which refection she was accompanied by Jeremiah. As soon as he had finished his pannikin of drink, Jerry put into it the piece of sugar which had been submitted to the examination of the natives, and poured on it some of the boiling tea from the kettle. He then handed it to the old woman.

The old woman took it; but as she took hold of it by the rim and not by the handle, she burnt her fingers, and let it fall to the ground, the hot liquid scalding the legs of several besides her own, as it was scattered about.

  ― 59 ―

Jerry, however, poured her out another cup; but as she would not take hold of it a second time, he placed it on the ground close by her side. She popped her finger into it, but soon took it out again, uttering a cry of pain!

Then all the natives would put their fingers into it to try the experiment, those who tried it first urging on the others to try it also, and taunting the backward ones, especially the women, for their timidity; much in the same way as children who have experienced an electric shock, endeavour to persuade others to feel the same sensation.

When the mirth which the hot tea had given rise to had subsided, the natives turned their attention to the biscuit which the white people were eating; and Jerry offered some of it to the native who was nearest to him.

The native took it, and as usual, first smelled it, and passed it round to the others, by all of whom it was smelled in turn; but not one of them would taste it. They exhibited a strong desire, however, to examine the contents of

  ― 60 ―
Jerry's knapsack; but this was authoritatively refused by the old lady, who rose from her sitting posture, and spoke some words to the assembled crowd, pointing to the west, which had an immediate effect upon them; and they forthwith retired to their separate fires crouching behind their breakwinds.

Helen and Jerry also, on their parts, seeing that there was no present harm intended to them, and that the fate of themselves and their valuables were postponed for some reason which they could not divine, were inclined to rest; and Helen endeavoured to make the old woman understand that she was desirous of retiring to the sleeping place of the women which she observed was arranged by a fire apart, and at some distance from the fires of the men.

The old lady at last understood her signs, and prepared to conduct her to the female department of the encampment; but first, she called out to the men, and one of them having appeared, she said something to him, the meaning of which was evident from his behaviour;

  ― 61 ―
for the native at once established himself in the immediate vicinity of Jeremiah, and lying down on his belly, watched him as an intelligent dog does an article of property that he has been set to guard.

The looks of the black fellow were by no means agreeable to Mr. Silliman, but fatigue soon weighed him down so heavily that he forgot natives and bushrangers and all, and slept on the bare earth as if on a bed of down. Helen also courted sleep for the sake of the strength which it would restore to her, and in a short time the whole of the party with the exception of the two who kept watch over the captives, were fast asleep. For many hours the two prisoners slept profoundly, nor thought, nor dreamed of the new adventures which the morrow was to bring forth.

  ― 62 ―

Chapter V. The Passage of the River.

AT the first dawn of day the natives were on the stir, and as they had no toilet duties to perform, and no portmanteaus or carpet bags to pack, they were ready to start as soon as they had got on their legs; an absence of ceremony which gave them a decided advantage in travelling. Before they set out, however, Helen made another attempt to leave them, and she beckoned to Mr. Silliman to accompany her; but they had no sooner made a few steps towards the entrance of the glen, than they found themselves followed by the same old woman

  ― 63 ―
and the same man who had watched them the night before.

Abandoning an attempt, therefore, which it was plainly useless to persevere in, Helen thought that she might be able to purchase their release by voluntarily presenting the natives with the stores and articles carried by her companion; but on their attempting to unpack the goods, they were immediately checked by the old woman, who gave them to understand that the articles were not to be touched at that time; an intimation with which they were obliged to comply.

Sorrowfully, therefore, and, as Jerry complained, without any breakfast but dry biscuit and cold water, they accompanied the natives on their journey, which Helen conjectured was homewards, as the movements of the natives were in one determined direction, and as they seemed to have no other thought than to reach the place of their destination.

In this way, and without stopping, they travelled the whole of the day, in a slow and

  ― 64 ―
sauntering manner; the women employed in collecting gum, and the men occasionally ascending a tree to capture an opossum, the presence of which animal, as Helen remarked, they were able to detect by its scent, their organs of smelling being remarkably acute, and, in that respect, bearing a strong resemblance to those of the inferior animal creation.

They saw plenty of kangaroos in their route, but the natives did not exert themselves to chase them; but they caught many kangaroo-rats and bandicoots. The old woman presented one of the latter to Helen, who was surprised to find the furry coat of the creature, which was about as large as a small badger, come off as she handled it, as if there was no power of cohesion between the hair and the skin.

The old woman endeavoured to make her understand that it was very good to eat, and Helen expressed her thanks in the best way she could; but she was by no means in the humour to study objects of natural history, and her uneasiness increased at every step which she

  ― 65 ―
made further in the interior, as it augmented the difficulties of her escape. She was at a loss also to imagine what it was that the natives intended to do with her. They offered her no violence, and all the restraint that they put on her was to prevent her from quitting them. But whether she was reserved to be put to death in some solemn manner, or in accordance with some religious ceremony, she could only conjecture; and such a conjecture was by no means calculated to enliven the tediousness of the way.

As for poor Jeremiah, he had made up his mind, with a sort of desperate resignation, as to what his fate would be, and he could not refrain from expressing his lamentations in the most disconsolate terms to the more strong-minded Helen. He had read in some book of travels that it was the practice with all savages either to eat the enemies whom they had taken in battle on the spot, or to offer them up to their gods as victims of sacrifice; and as he could not possibly conceive what other use they could

  ― 66 ―
make of him, he had no doubt that such was the honour reserved for his especial glorification.

Helen endeavoured to restore the courage of her fellow-captive, by remarking that there was no appearance of any religious ceremony being in use among the tribe of natives with whom they were travelling; that they did not pay any sort of worship to any being, visible or invisible; nor did she observe any one of them with any appearance of being a minister of religion.

But her arguments failed to convince Jerry; he was sure, he said, that it was intended that he should be sacrificed; and as to the gum which they were so officious in offering to him, it was only to fatten him up for the grand occasion; and the old woman looked, as he averred, as if she could eat him at any time, without salt or pepper.

“But before they shall do that,” added Jerry, valorously, “I will have a fight for it!—But my greatest trouble is about you, miss; I don't suppose they will eat you; for they must see that you are not one to fight them—and a

  ― 67 ―
woman they say, is respected, even by savages. At any rate I will fight for you, miss, if I only had a weapon—a gun or a pistol—till I died!—I would, indeed! and I wouldn't mind death, unpleasant as it is under any circumstances, if I could only save your life!”

Helen thanked the kind-hearted Jeremiah for his generous intentions, and in this interchange of sentiments which, after all, had a certain charm for Jerry, for he had never been in such close communion with the beautiful Miss Horton before, they beguiled their journey; passing over a variegated country of hill and dale, till they arrived at the bank of a broad and rapid river a few miles from the dell which they had left, and which was the same which the bushranger had discovered from the top of the sugar-loaf hill.

The natives did not seem at all embarrassed at this obstacle; but an immense deal of jabbering took place in making preparations for passing it. It was about twenty yards broad, flowing in a southerly direction in a plain of

  ― 68 ―
luxuriant but coarse grass, bearing the marks of being periodically flooded. The women, on this occasion, sat down on the turf by the margin of the water, taking no part in the work—which was performed exclusively by the men; but they endeavoured to forward the undertaking, it seemed, by much gratuitous advice, all talking together with considerable vehemence and great gesticulation.

The men, meanwhile, set about constructing two bark canoes, but as they had only a stone axe to work with, the incision of the bark in the first instance was an operation of much difficulty, as the bark of nearly all the trees in Van Diemen's land is very thick and tough. Jerry, observing the operose nature of their work, and thinking that this was a favourable opportunity for being useful, made his way to them, and requesting them by signs to stand back, drew out an axe, which was one of the articles of which he was the bearer, but which had been concealed under his coat. He soon made manifest the superiority of the white man's tool;

  ― 69 ―
but his interference was interrupted by the eternal old woman, who made signs to him to discontinue his assistance, as, for some reason which he could not comprehend, his axe was forbidden to be made use of.

This restriction puzzled Jeremiah exceedingly. But the men were not so submissive to the mysterious authority of the aged female as before. One of them took the axe from Jerry's hand, very unceremoniously, and examined it attentively, admiring the sharp edge, and wondering at the hardness of the metal. He passed it round to his fellows, who, although they saw plainly enough that it was an instrument made to cut with, could not make out of what stuff it was made, as they were entirely unacquainted with the use of iron.

An immense quantity of talk ensued, and one who seemed to have some previous knowledge of the instrument, harangued the others at great length, as it seemed, in explanation of the white man's axe. The native who had

  ― 70 ―
taken it from Jerry, and who seemed to exercise the chief authority over the tribe next to the old woman, then proceeded to use it, which he did with great dexterity; and as the keen edge penetrated into the bark and effected at one stroke an incision which it took many repeated blows of the rude stone instrument of the natives to perform, the black fellows set up a shout of admiration and capered round the tree in excessive delight.

The necessary planks of bark, by means of this effective auxiliary, were quickly separated from two trees fit for the purpose, and the two ends of each being tied up so as to fashion the pieces of bark into the shape of two canoes, they were pushed into the water. But a bright thought now seized Jerry, who, seeing the success of his first essay at pleasing the natives, was prompted to a fresh display of his ingenuity.

He was furnished with more than a hundred yards of whale line, which the forethought of the bushranger had provided, and which was

  ― 71 ―
now found particularly useful, so that Jerry in his glee remarked to Helen “that the burthen which had so long plagued him would turn out after all the best load he had ever carried; and,” as he philosophically observed, “that there was no knowing what was best for us in this world, for that which seemed most burthensome often turned out most useful in the end.”

Jeremiah now assumed an air and attitude of authority, in which he was supported by his ally, the old woman, who seemed curious to know what were his intentions. He made signs to the natives to remove to the edge of the river several pieces of dead timber, which he fastened together with a part of his cord so as form a tolerably large and secure raft, capable of bearing a dozen persons, and which, by the united strength of the whole party, was launched into the water and held fast. He then divided his whale line into two lengths, and tied one of the cords to one end of the raft and one to the other. The natives regarded all

  ― 72 ―
these preparations in silence, but with great attention.

He then, by signs, directed a “black fellow” to take hold of the end of one of the lines and transport himself with it in a bark canoe to the other side of the stream.—He had some difficulty in making him understand what he wanted him to do; but at last the native comprehended his meaning, and he and another, having provided themselves with a long pole each, by way of an oar or punt-stick, stepped lightly into the fragile boat, and one sitting at either end of it, they quickly pushed themselves over to the other side.

When both of the men were in the canoe, Helen observed that it was nearly under water, so that it was impossible for more than two to be conveyed in the same boat at a time, and the slightest motion seemed to endanger its being overturned; but the two natives balanced themselves and managed their extempore craft with wonderful dexterity, and showed no signs of fear at such a ticklish mode of water-carriage.

  ― 73 ―

In the mean time, Jerry intimated, by signs, that two more natives were to cross over, which they did. He then got on the raft with Helen, first putting the end of the other rope into the hand of another native on the bank, in order that the raft might be hauled back for the conveyance of more passengers.

He endeavoured to prevail on some of the women to accompany them, but they all hung back and refused to try the experiment;—they could not make out why the cords were tied to the wood on the water.

The men on the other side now readily comprehended that their part was to pull the raft over the stream, which they did easily, the rapidity of the current assisting them; and Jerry and Helen were safely landed on the other side. A wild scream of admiration sprung from the assembled blacks as they beheld the success of this manœuvre; and those on the side which the raft had left, now seeing the reason of the two cords, quickly pulled the raft back, and by this means the

  ― 74 ―
whole party passed over quickly, and without accident.

Jeremiah, vastly pleased with his exploit, and trusting that, if the natives found his services useful, they would refrain from devouring him, or, at any rate, that they would postpone that ceremony for some time which would give him the chance of escaping, now untied the cords from the raft, and as they were wet and uncomfortable for him to carry, he parted them off into coils, which he placed round a young native's neck, who permitted him to do so without resistance, and on the contrary, seemed rather pleased to be selected for the honourable distinction.

Helen now conceived hopes, from the pacific treatment which they had already received from the natives, and from their present demeanour, that she should be able to induce them to conduct her to some settlement; but she perceived that there was some particular reason for their taking her with them; and she guessed that there was some native of higher authority before

  ― 75 ―
whom she was to appear, and on whose decision her fate rested. In the mean time, she resolved to bear her present lot with all the fortitude that she could bring to her aid; and she determined to avail herself of the opportunity to observe the manners and customs of her new associates closely, as well for her general information, as to enable her to take advantage of any good trait in their dispositions, or of their inclination to possess themselves of the mechanical tools of the white people, for the purpose of effecting her release. And she flattered herself, that she should be able to find the means of communicating to them the promise of a great reward of axes, nails, and various useful articles on the condition of being restored to her friends.

Mr. Silliman being of the same opinion, and being considerably elated at his own readiness of invention, and great cleverness and ingenuity in respect to the construction of the raft, they became less depressed. They were inclined almost to be cheerful at the prospect of the

  ― 76 ―
speedy liberation which they promised themselves, and the remainder of their journey was performed with less anxiety than at first.

They had to cross two more small streams before they stopped; one of them they passed by means of a natural bridge formed of a tree which had fallen conveniently across the water; the other they waded through. Jerry could not avoid remarking on the inconvenience of having clothes on in the latter case; and in this respect, he said, he was bound to concede the superiority to the natives; wondering at the same time, “if their masters would oblige him and Miss Horton to adopt the national custom in that respect, which he observed would be very chilly to one not used to it.”

Helen had her own misgivings on that point, but she said nothing, as indeed it was an awkward subject to converse on; but it is due to Mr. Silliman to record that he practised the most gentlemanly reserve towards his companion in captivity, being actuated as much by his own kindness of heart, as by habitual

  ― 77 ―
respect for Miss Horton; so that the poor girl was saved from much that was disagreeable by the unobtrusive assiduousness of his attentions.

They had now proceeded about twenty miles, and the sun had for more than two hours declined in its course. It was very hot, and Helen was much fatigued; Jerry, too, was tired with his journey. The old woman observed they walked with difficulty, and raising her voice, she caused the whole party to halt, and the natives assembled around her.

She spoke to them a few words, and by her pointing to the north-west, Helen guessed that she was giving some directions in respect to that quarter. And her anticipation was presently confirmed; for after a little consultation among themselves, nearly all the natives continued their march, leaving behind them only the old woman, who had taken special charge of the captives, and another young girl, with three of the men, among whom was the one bearing round his neck the coils of whale line placed there by Jeremiah.

  ― 78 ―

This arrangement having been effected, the old lady intimated to her prisoners, that they might rest where they were, which happened to be in a pleasant clump of cedar trees on a platform of sandy land, raised about six or eight feet above a grassy plain, on the edge of which they were reposing. Under their feet, and at the bottom of the bank which was extended like a wall for some distance right and left, ran a shallow brook of water not more than two or three inches in depth. Towards the west there was a ridge of continuous hills of considerable height, and at a distance on their left were to be seen the craggy summits of lofty mountains.

Helen endeavoured to ascertain how much further they had to go; but although it appeared that the old woman understood the meaning of the signs which she made, Helen could not understand what the black lady said in reply, although the native, in order to make herself more intelligible, repeated her words several times, and pronounced with great earnestness the syllables “Walloo-wombee.” But what this

  ― 79 ―
“walloo-wombee” was, whether it was the name of a place or of a person, neither Helen nor Jeremiah could make out. It seemed, however, that on this “walloo-wombee!” depended in some manner their future destiny.

As they could not help themselves, however, they determined to make the best of circumstances, and Jerry set the natives to cut down boughs and to place them so as to form a tolerable bush-hut for Helen, and another for himself at a little distance. His tea-kettle also was again put in requisition, and Helen was able to enjoy that which is considered in the bush as the greatest luxury. One of the native men caught a kangaroo rat, which he gave to the prisoners, and Jerry after dissecting it with his knife, roasted it at the fire which had been kindled, and tasted it. Finding it to resemble very much a wild rabbit, though much tougher and more sinewy and fibrous, he encouraged Helen to partake of it, which she did, after a little reluctance, with much satisfaction.

The night was now passed with less of discomfort

  ― 80 ―
than Helen had experienced since her life in the bush; and the next morning they were invited, as soon as daylight appeared, to continue their journey. The weather still continued fine and without rain, which was unusual at this season of the year, it being September, and the early part of spring, during which the periodical rains take place. They journeyed on that day about a dozen miles more, most of the country being flat, and only one or two high hills occurring during the whole of this route. In the afternoon, they came to a part of the country abounding in rocks and ravines, wild and barren, and seemingly unfitted for the habitation of anything but wild beasts.

They toiled through half a mile of this rugged district, when, on surmounting a low green hill, they suddenly found themselves within sight of the sea, while to their right stretched a sheltered dell of the most picturesque description, and which they observed was sheltered from the sea, which they judged was not more than a mile distant, by a high

  ― 81 ―
ridge forming a natural barrier to the vale within.

Having been allowed to enjoy the pleasure of this view for some minutes, their conductor urged them forward, giving them to understand by signs that they had arrived at the end of their journey. Both Helen and Jeremiah were now seized with much anxiety and fear; for the moment had arrived when their fate—for good or ill—was to be decided.

  ― 82 ―

Chapter VI. A Native Chief.

DESCENDING a gentle declivity for about two hundred yards, they were led by the old lady who acted as mistress of the ceremonies, into the bosom of the valley, which was bordered by dense forests of the stringy-bark tree, whose tall and leafless stems had a naked and gloomy appearance. In the centre of the valley ran a small rivulet on the borders of which on either side, Helen perceived groups of natives.

As she approached nearer, she observed that one of them was sitting on the log of a tree apart from the others who were standing or

  ― 83 ―
lying about near the fires which were burning in all directions. Presently, she was able to distinguish that the native on the log was an old man; apparently very old; and it struck her immediately, although she could not tell why, that the other natives demeaned themselves with a sort of deference to the aged black man; although there was no sign of royalty or chieftainship about him, and the only robe of royalty he wore was, like the other natives, the garb of nature.

Helen remembered to have read something of the “natural dignity of man,” and of “beauty when unadorned being adorned the most,” &c. She was decidedly of opinion, however, that the natural dignity of man would have been assisted on the present occasion by that article of dress which, among ladies of white complexions, can never be more than distantly alluded to; and the same remark was applicable to the countrymen or subjects of his black Majesty. As to the female part of his court, Helen could not but wish that their beauties

  ― 84 ―
had been adorned by some sort of covering of ever so little dimensions.

But the old lady who was conducting her and her companion to the presence of the great man did not seem to be at all aware that anything was wanting to the impressive nature of the reception. There was the sky and the sun above, and the earth and its waters beneath, and kangaroos, and opossums, and gum for food; and what was there to want more?—The old lady, after all, was somewhat of a philosopher; but she carried out her philosophical notions of the fewness of the natural wants rather to the extreme! Poor Helen felt the present practical illustration of it most painfully. But there was no retreat! She was in the power of the natives, and she was constrained to abide by their will.

Mr. Silliman suffered also exceedingly, but it was from a different cause; not that he was unfeeling or indifferent to the extreme awkwardness of Miss Horton and himself being the only persons dressed at this sable party;—his

  ― 85 ―
thoughts ran on being “dressed” in another way; for he feared that this might be the chief or conjuror, for the especial gratification of whose appetite he had been reserved. It was with a shudder, therefore, of natural apprehension that he observed, whatever else of strength or beauty that important personage had lost, that the old gentleman had preserved his grinders, which were decidedly carnivorous!—His mouth, also, was of most formidable dimensions:—

The great man opened it deliberately, and said something to the old woman.

The old woman replied sententiously; and then pointing to the old man she said to his compulsory visitors:—


“What does she mean?” asked Jerry, of Helen.

“She means, doubtless, that the name of that old man is the word she has pronounced;—and as he seems to be the chief of the tribe, it will be prudent for us to please him.”

  ― 86 ―

“He is a most particularly ugly old rascal,” replied Jerry. “Did you ever see such grinders!”

“Hush!” said Helen; “he is going to speak again.”

The natives, men, women, and children, now gathered round, and looked on in silence.

In reply to some questions put from the log, the old lady, it seemed, explained to the “chief” the difference of the sexes of Helen and Jeremiah, for she pointed to Helen and then to a woman of her own tribe, and then to Jerry and to a male native. The old gentleman expressed a lively curiosity at this, and beckoned to Helen to come near to him. Taking hold of part of her dress with his black paw, he examined it with much wonder: he had never seen anything resembling it before. He directed the white woman, by signs, to take it off. His mistress of the ceremonies was about to render her aid unasked in this interresting operation, the issue of which was

  ― 87 ―
evidently waited for by the assembled natives with much interest.

Poor Helen was much embarrassed. She had a particular objection to being stripped, especially in the presence of such a numerous assemblage; but she feared also to offend the chief. In this dilemma, gently resisting the old lady's officious readiness to act as lady's maid, she pointed to Jerry; wishing to direct attention to his attire; and hoping that some lucky accident would prevent the necessity of her parting with her own. As soon as her desire was understood, it was at once assented to by the chief, who was wondering what the bundles borne by the white man contained. Jerry therefore was invited by very significant gestures to unpack himself. Helen, rejoicing at this diversion, assisted him with alacrity.

The first thing that attracted the chief's attention was the axe of which he had received information from the natives who had preceded the prisoners, and which he forthwith tried, but with a very feeble hand, on the log which served

  ― 88 ―
him for his throne of audience. It might be difficult to say whether he entertained the same opinion of a throne as a great contemporary who expressed a memorable opinion on that subject, but, at any rate, he treated it with as little ceremony.

Being satisfied with the qualities of the tool, he quietly dropped it on the ground behind him, as a perquisite to be appropriated to himself. He then pointed to the tea-kettle, the shape of which filled him with much curiosity. He turned it over and over, wondering perhaps of what sort of bark or wood it was made, and enquired the use of it?

The old lady, who acted as interpreter, immediately entered into an animated description of the boiling of the water; but as he could not comprehend the matter that way, he directed that the white people should proceed to explain its uses by practical illustration.

Jerry made some tea in it accordingly, and sweetened it with the white sugar, a substance which the old gentleman examined with

  ― 89 ―
particular curiosity. Observing that the white man put a bit of it into his mouth, the chief did the same, and seemed exceedingly gratified at its sweet taste; which was not altogether new to him, however, as the juice which exudes and crystallizes on a certain tree in Van Diemen's Land, similar to the sweet maple, abundant in many parts of the United States of America, has a sweet taste, though sickly to a stranger, of which the natives are very fond.

Approving of the sugar as he had done of the axe, he intimated that the whole of it should be shown to him, which he seized on as a royal prize, and deposited it on the ground behind the throne.—The tea-kettle he paid little regard to.

Animated by the discoveries he had already made, of the white man's treasures, he expressed his desire, by very intelligible signs, that Jerry should proceed with his revelations.

Accordingly that obsequious individual produced

  ― 90 ―
a stone bottle of rum, which the old gentleman smelt at, and put away with evident dislike.

A tinder-box was then displayed, which puzzled the great man exceedingly; but when Jerry struck sparks with the flint and steel, and ignited the tinder, the admiration of all present was violent in the extreme! It was immediately taken possession of by his Majesty for the use of the State.—Three pannikins also, which formed part of Jerry's stores, were placed in the royal treasury.

They now came to Grough's knapsack, which Jerry, hitherto, had not had the opportunity of opening, and which that most unamiable person had added to his prisoner's load, with so little humanity, on the morning of the late Mr. Swindell's sudden decease.

The weightiest part of its contents was a huge bottle of brandy, which the chief rejected with the same antipathy as he had put aside the rum. Jerry next pulled out a handkerchief containing dollars, which the natives did not

  ― 91 ―
understand the value of; they were given to the children to play with.

Jerry then fished out of the knapsack a woollen bag secured by a string. He opened it, and, to his extreme delight, found a small pair of pocket pistols, with a flask full of powder, a couple of dozen balls, with spare flints and apparatus complete. It had formed part of the Major's personals, and had been secured by Mr. Grough for himself, at the time of the general plunder.

Helen was so rejoiced at the sight of the familiar weapons that she could not refrain from a loud exclamation of gladness! for she felt that she now had, at her command, the means of defending herself from outrage, and perhaps of intimidating the savages.

The pistols were of exquisite make; and their quality was proved by their having preserved their primings so long a time, for to Helen's still greater satisfaction, they were loaded.—As a soldier's daughter, and a girl of spirit as she was, she was neither unacquainted with

  ― 92 ―
the use of such weapons, nor timid in availing herself of their protection. She took possession of them, therefore, as her legitimate right, and suspended the bag to her girdle, explaining in a few words to Mr. Silliman the part which she intended to act.

The old chief and the other natives observed her proceedings with much interest, and the old woman put out her hand to take the pistols from her for the purpose of presenting them to the chief. But Helen shook her head and pointed to the sky.

All the natives looked up at the sky; but as they saw nothing more than they had seen every day, they all looked down again and directed their eyes to the curious things in the hands of the white woman. The old lady again made an attempt to possess herself of the pistols, but Helen pushed back her hands. The chief, who it seemed was not exempt from the general infirmity of royalty, now became impatient, and said some words in an angry tone, which excited his savage subjects,

  ― 93 ―
and his female prime minister advanced again.

But Helen, determined not to relinquish her protectors, thought that, by an exhibition of the power of the tiny fire-arms, she might succeed in overawing the natives so as to cause them to desist from their hostile intentions of wresting them from her by force. She again made a sign, therefore, for the natives to look up to the sky, wishing them to understand that the things which she held in her hand had some connection with the mysterious powers of the heavens; and while they were thus earnestly engaged, she discharged one of the pistols in the air, which, from its propinquity to their ears, produced an astounding report!

The effect of this unexpected “thunder” on the old chief was sudden and striking. Most of the other natives had heard the sound of the white man's thunder, and had witnessed its deadly effects; but the chief, from his extreme distance from any settlement, and from his great age, which had incapacitated him for some

  ― 94 ―
years past from joining his tribe in their customary migrations, never having experienced such a shock on his auditory nerves before, fell back with affright, and tumbled head over heels from his log, to the infinite consternation of the spectators!

They all rushed towards him, which afforded to Helen the opportunity to recharge her weapon, which was expedited by the attentive Mr. Silliman.

The old man was lifted from the ground, and, happily for the prisoners, it was ascertained that he was more frightened than hurt, or the consequences might have been fatal to the thunder-makers on the spot. As it was, they were taken hold of by some of the natives, who bound Jerry with his own whale-line, and placed him on the ground apart near a huge fire, which he had much the same satisfaction in contemplating as it might be supposed, a sirloin of beef would have if endowed with animation in the same position waiting to be roasted. Poor Jerry thought, to be sure, that his last hour was come! and

  ― 95 ―
whether the whole world was ultimately to be consumed by fire or not, that certainly he, as a fractional portion of living matter, was destined individually to experience that most disagreeable mode of corporeal annihilation!

But the effect on the chief, when he had sufficiently recovered his faculties to comprehend the cause of his sudden summerset from his log, was most impressive and profound; and he was seized with the idea that the white people had really come from the sky, and that they had the power to wield the thunder and lightning which often visited them from above!

He regarded Helen especially as a superior being, from the wonderful whiteness of her skin, and from the absence of all fear, which he did not fail to remark was one of her characteristic qualities.

As to Jerry, whose dress, the chief remarked, was different from that of Helen, he conjectured that he was some inferior inhabitant of the same sky, fulfilling the office of attendant or slave to her, the superior one; but who, still, was to be

  ― 96 ―
regarded with the respect due to a creature attached to the person of one to whom he was inclined to pay superstitious veneration.

It is likely that this fortunate reverence of the old chief saved both their lives. Jerry was ordered to be unbound; while Helen was treated with extraordinary respect, being invited to sit on the log occupied by his Majesty, and the whole of her goods borne by her slave were directed to be restored to her. But somehow, as Jerry remarked, they were subjected, with a curious similitude to more civilized courts, to so many deductions in the shape of perquisites by the way, that but little of the restituted property reached its legitimate destination.

Mr. Silliman, however, with much tact, took advantage of these favourable dispositions, and set the natives to work to build for Helen a commodious hut formed of stakes and the boughs of trees, contenting himself with one of an inferior description at a little distance; a distinction which confirmed the natives in their

  ― 97 ―
idea of his subordinate capacity. He observed, however, that he and Helen were closely and constantly watched so that escape seemed impossible; and to fight their way out from the boundaries of their confinement was an undertaking too rash to be attempted.

But not the slightest violence was offered to either of them; and excepting that they were not allowed to leave the valley, no restraint was placed on their motions. On the contrary, the old chief was particularly pleased to have the white woman constantly by his side; and as he became familiarized to the presence of “the inhabitant of the sky,” important state resolves took the place of his first fears of her preternatural powers.

But it is proper in this place, as the western tribe of natives occupies an important position in this narrative, to describe the person of their chief, not only for the sake of historical accuracy, but for the gratification also of the curious in such matters.

His Majesty “Walloo-wombee” had been

  ― 98 ―
originally very tall, and as straight as a stringybark tree, but now was much bent with the weight of years. What his physiognomy originally had been, it would have been difficult to conjecture; but his visage at the period to which this narrative refers, resembled that of a very old baboon. His body was thin and bony; his arms long and wiry; his legs like spindles with long narrow feet, having projecting excrescences like the claws of a Boomah “kangaroo.” His head, looking at it in front seemed small from the lowness and narrowness of his retreating forehead; but seen sideways, it looked large and of an oblong shape from the projecting bump behind. In this characteristic it resembled the skulls of all the natives, which are remarkably thick; a quality which enables them to bear the thumps of their waddies, in their frequent combats, with a disregard to feeling which surprises an European. The whole framework of the old man, though now attenuated and feeble, exhibited the remains of extraordinary strength and agility; and it was to those

  ― 99 ―
qualities, most likely, as is usual among savages, that he owed his elevation as chief of the tribe.

It must not be omitted, that on the occasion of the white people's reception, his grisly hair was profusely powdered with the dust of redochre, and that his body was smeared over, in rough devices, with the same material mixed with resinous gum to help its adhesion.

It would appear from this, that even in the most simple and the rudest state, there is an innate propensity in the animal man, to improve his personal appearance by the aid of art; for, doubtless, the care which had obviously been bestowed on the adonisation of the chief, was supposed to add a finish to the natural dignity of his person, calculated to strike an awe in the beholder.

Such was the high personage on whose nod—or on whose waddie—the fate of Helen now depended.

The old lady, who was the daughter of this engaging individual, looked almost as aged as

  ― 100 ―
her parent, though she was in truth, twenty years younger; and excepting her sex, and that her ugliness was infinitely more revolting in a woman than in a man, there was little difference between them. But as the hearts of the softer sex are proverbially more susceptible of the tender passion, than those of the male kind, it was she who first felt a flame for one of the prisoners.

The black Gorgon loved him as Desdemona loved Othello — that is, vice-versarily considered; but it must be confessed, that she had at first in her contemplation a different sort of passion—for she loved him because he was so fat! and as a familiar saying expresses it—although in the present case it had too literal an application—she loved him as if she could eat him!—a mode of exemplifying her partiality, which she had originally cherished with all the ardour of native ingenuousness!

But, as she could eat him—as she considered—at any time, her thoughts were gradually turned in another direction; and such is the

  ― 101 ―
force of mighty love! she, the daughter of a chief, resolved to raise him to the rank of her husband!

She had already, had three. Two had been killed in battle; the other she had killed herself. She would willingly have tried a fourth; but no one of the tribe could be cajoled into accepting that distinguished but dangerous place; for she was strong and tough exceedingly! and was as expert as any one of the males in throwing the spear and in handling the waddie; a dexterity which she had acquired by much experience, and by the constant exercise of that primitive argument on the skull of her deceased husband. These unattractive traits in her character, added to her indomitable fierceness on all occasions when her will was thwarted, caused her to have more fearers than admirers among the gentlemen of her acquaintance.

The advent of Jeremiah, therefore, was really a godsend for the old lady;—it seemed that he had dropped from the sky for her on purpose,

  ― 102 ―
—andit was not long before she contrived by various endearing attentions to make the object of her attachment sensible of her preference. But Jerry was as inexorable as a tiger!

Filled with despair, the daughter of the royal chief communicated her sorrow to her venerable papa, who having, himself, similar designs towards the white woman, was well-disposed to forward her inclinations.

The unhappy Helen, on her side, viewed the increasing partiality of the old savage with unspeakable horror, as it threatened a fate worse than death itself; so fatal, sometimes, to their objects are royal predilections!

  ― 103 ―

Chapter VII. Trevor Seeks Helen.

IN the mean time Trevor lay ill of the fever, occasioned by the irritation of his wounds. The excellent corporal attended on him with the most zealous assiduity. He fetched him the freshest water from the river, and broiled for him the tenderest morsels of kangaroo flesh. Gladly would he have made for him some of that delicious and nourishing soup, which, of “all the tails on the face of the earth,” as he declared, that of the kangaroo alone could furnish with such luxurious relish.

But poor Trevor could eat nothing; and for three days water was his only drink. Nothing

  ― 104 ―
but the strength of his constitution, and the extraordinary salubrity of the climate, could have carried him through such an illness. And to this was added the still more depressing influence of his anguish of mind at the contemplation of Helen's fate, whom he sometimes pictured as lost and wandering in the bush, and at others in the power of the savages of whose relentless cruelty he had heard so many horrible relations.

The corporal sat by his bush-hut, employed for the most part in endeavouring to clean the rusty firelock left with him so mysteriously in exchange for his own, and furbishing it up with charcoal ashes, so as to give it a regimental appearance. Nothing, perhaps, but the necessity of being armed in his solitude, could have reconciled him to its use at all; and he lamented occasionally the absence of his own firelock in most dolorous terms, as a lover grieving for his mistress, which, at any other time, would have afforded the ensign considerable amusement.

At the end of three days, however, his officer

  ― 105 ―
showed signs of amendment; and Trevor no sooner felt the prostration of the fever abating, than he expressed his desire to proceed in search of Miss Horton. But this the corporal strenuously opposed; and Trevor's weakness was so great that he could not disguise from himself that such a course would be rash and useless. Besides, he considered that, for Helen's sake, it would be more judicious to give information to the Major at the cave, or to the people on board the brig, of the fight with the natives, and the probability of her having been carried away with them; as the corporal, after the most diligent daily search, had been unable to discover any trace of her remains, or of those of Mr. Silliman. He flattered himself also with the hope that possibly Helen had escaped, and had found her way back to the bay.

Actuated by these considerations, he became anxious to reach the cave as soon as possible; and, although he could hardly walk, he determined to begin his journey back. In this determination the corporal entirely acquiesced, “for

  ― 106 ―
he could not be worse off,” as he remarked, than where he was, and “every step back was a step forwards,” bringing them nearer to their friends.

Fortunately, although it was the beginning of the rainy season, the weather held up, and the nights were not cold; and as Trevor was now able to take food, and as there was no lack of kangaroos, he got on better than he expected; but it took him four days to perform the journey in his present state, which he had rapidly traversed in little more than one shortly before. But on reaching the cave, to his excessive mortification, and not less to the disappointment of the corporal, they could not see the brig; and, from the appearance of the cave, it seemed clear that it had been deserted!

The proclamation appended to the rock apprised them, however, that the authorities were active in pursuit of the Bushranger, and Trevor could only hope that, by some lucky chance, in pursuing the absconded prisoners, they would meet with Helen; an opinion, however, in which the corporal did not agree, as he

  ― 107 ―
said, “that in the bush one man might search for another all his life, and never find him, unless he knew where he was;” an assurance which was by no means calculated to raise Trevor's spirits; but as the corporal was not in love, the dreary prospect of such a failure did not strike him so forcibly as it did his officer.

The question now was, what was to be done? The cave afforded shelter, the forests firewood, and the kangaroos supplied food;—but what was the use of remaining there; that would not help Helen. The corporal counselled their immediate return to camp; and observed that they could not miss the way, as they had only to keep within sight of the river Derwent on their right hand, and they would be sure to reach the town.

The road, however, could not fail to be difficult to a sick man. However, as the corporal professionally remarked, “as there was no help for it, all they had to do was to put their best foot foremost, and lose no time about it.”

Trevor was still very weak, but inspired by

  ― 108 ―
the ardour of youth, and by his desire to give the earliest possible intelligence of Helen's danger, he at once decided to set out for Hobart town. The journey was long and difficult; and it took him six days to perform the distance of forty miles, from the southern part of the coast where the bay was situate to the nearest station on his way to the town. He arrived there in a state so exhausted that it was necessary to procure a bullock-cart to convey him to his quarters, where at last he obtained the medical assistance which he so much needed.

The corporal reported himself to the commanding officer, and related succinctly the occurrences which it was expedient to make known, passing lightly over the event of the loss of his firelock, a circumstance on which the worthy corporal did not think it necessary to expatiate. He indulged himself, however, liberally in relating to his comrades that which he called his “scrimmage” with the natives.

Trevor, on his part, lost no time in making inquiries of the brig, and of the Major and his

  ― 109 ―
daughters. He ascertained that the brig was anchored in the river near the jetty; that Louisa was under the care of a family in the town, attended by a native girl, who had inspired much interest with the inhabitants; and that the Major had started with a party in search of Helen, who was supposed to be in the power of the Bushranger, and whose fate had excited the most lively commiseration.

His report of the probability of her having been carried away by the natives gave rise to fresh excitement, although it was generally deemed certain—an opinion which was industriously pressed upon Trevor—that she had been put to death by the savages, as they were never known to spare a white man or woman in their power.

Some few, however, had the consideration to say that, as Helen was a woman, the case was different; and that the natives might not think it necessary to take her life, and that perhaps she might be admitted into their tribe, and become the wife of one of the black fellows.

  ― 110 ―
This latter suggestion, it may easily be supposed, by no means calmed Trevor's apprehensions.

He asked for leave to go in search of her, a request which was readily granted; but here the medical attendant interposed, and positively forbade any attempt at travelling in his present state; and his commanding officer thought it his duty to exercise his authority to prevent him from exposing himself to the hardships of the bush, under circumstances which could not avail the young lady, and would certainly be fatal to the adventurer. Trevor, therefore, was compelled to bear his disappointment, and to nourish his grief in silence.

In his returning convalescence he was constantly in the society of Louisa, with whom it was a melancholy pleasure for him to converse about her sister; and to whom he could, without reserve, express his bitter wretchedness at her loss, aggravated as it was by his own inability to undertake the task of discovering her, if she was still alive.

He related to her over and over again all the

  ― 111 ―
circumstances of his fight with the natives, and the scream which he had heard from the thicket, and which he was certain, he said, had proceeded from Helen. And every day he discussed with her the likelihood of her having been carried off as a prisoner by the natives, or the possibility of her being even then a wanderer in the bush! Louisa listened to all these surmises with many tears.

The young female native who had so willingly accompanied her father, as Louisa informed Trevor, was often present at these conversations; and although she could not understand the cause of their trouble, she showed by her manner that she commiserated their distress, much in the same way as an attached dog looks up into the face of its master when he sees him troubled, and wags its tail and shows an inclination to sympathise with his affliction if he could only understand what the matter was, and how he could assist him. Such was the affectionate expression visible in the face of Oionoo.

  ― 112 ―

It is to be observed, that Miss Oionoo was now decently clothed, her hair being profusely adorned with red ribbons, a colour for which she manifested a particular predilection. It was with great difficulty, however, that she was persuaded to suffer herself to be encumbered with any description of apparel; and she displayed so decided a partiality for the sailor's blue trousers, as allowing her more freedom of motion than petticoats, that she was permitted to retain them, as well from a desire to indulge her, as from considerations of propriety; as she was fond of tumbling about occasionally after a fashion that rendered nugatory the protection of female attire.

Nothing, however, could prevent her, at times, from throwing off the whole of her clothes, in order to disport herself at liberty in the garden attached to the house; in which she recreated herself in climbing up the fruit-trees, and in various gambols, which, however interesting they might be to a philosophical observer, from their charming aboriginal simplicity,

  ― 113 ―
were by no means consistent with civilized notions of female decorum.

By degrees she picked up a few words, and was able to express her wants, though of course very imperfectly, in English. She imitated the sounds of what she heard with great facility, but she could not so easily be made to understand their meaning.

Trevor, partly from good-feeling, and partly to beguile the time, would often amuse himself with endeavouring to teach the poor creature to talk their language; and he endeavoured to learn from her something about her countrymen, for he was exceedingly anxious to know if they would take a white woman to wife.

He observed that the native, in her endeavours to make herself understood, frequently pointed to the west; but it was a long time before he could understand what she meant by that action. The importance of it, however, to him and to her who was most dear to him, will be seen in the course of this eventful history.

  ― 114 ―

Chapter VIII. The Bushranger Seeks Helen.

ANXIOUS as Trevor was to hear tidings of Helen, and pained and mortified as he was to be prevented by illness from joining the expedition for her recovery, Mark Brandon was not less eager to find the girl on whom he had fixed his wild and lawless lust.

Maddened by her loss, he cursed the ill-luck which had separated her from him at the moment when he had assured, as he thought, the destruction of her friends who were advancing to her rescue, and had secured her for himself. He determined to follow her up at all hazards, for his absorbing passion so blinded him to all consequences, that he lost

  ― 115 ―
sight of his usual habits of caution, and was ready to risk life and liberty to regain possession of her.

But, if she had been carried off by the natives, as he expected, he should have need, he was aware, of the assistance of his brawny comrade in the enterprise; he was obliged, therefore, to bear the companionship of the treacherous rascal till his object was accomplished. In this mood he had journeyed on with him towards the scene of their encounter with the natives.

This time, however, he had forbore from going near the spot where Trevor was lying, and where the corporal, whom he and Grough had seen at a distance, was watching. He might easily have shot them both; but as that would have been a murder without an object, which was contrary to his “system,” he passed on his way, intending to move round the point and look for the tracks of the natives in their retreat.

He thought, at the time, that he observed his

  ― 116 ―
companion eye the soldier in a way that indicated a desire to communicate with him; but whether it was that Grough thought the attempt too hazardous, and that he was likely to be shot by the corporal on the one side if he approached him, and by Brandon on the other, if he left him, he had gone on without speaking. Mark, however, guessed his thoughts, and as he said to himself, “made a note of it.”

The tracks which the Bushranger searched for were soon found, for the natives had been in too large a body not to leave a trail behind them, easy to be recognised by one so experienced in the bush.

The track led to the north-west which was precisely the part into which the bushranger desired to penetrate. He looked out for some sign of Helen having been with them, hoping that she would have recourse to the same device to give information of her track as she had done before. In this he was disappointed, but after a few miles travelling he spied the mark of a little shoe. His heart leaped within him. It

  ― 117 ―
could be no other than the girl's foot, for the natives never wore shoes. He proceeded on his way with increased energy.

Grough had not observed the circumstance of the little foot, and Brandon did not think it necessary to tell him; besides, the former was too much occupied with his plans for seizing his friend and delivering him up for the reward to do more than mark the route which they were pursuing, in order that he might find his way back. To assure himself of this facility he began to notch a tree as a sign-post; but Brandon checked him.

Grough seemed at first inclined to rebel; but he suddenly assumed a demeanour of entire acquiescence in Brandon's better judgment. The Bushranger was not deceived by the transparent duplicity of his fellow; but he made a “notch” in his memory of that circumstance too.

The pair went on side by side in seeming good fellowship; and they kept on the track till they came to the point where the body of

  ― 118 ―
natives separated, one tribe with Helen having gone one way, and the auxiliary tribe another. This was embarrassing. The Bushranger stopped to deliberate.

Some suspicion seemed now to cross the mind of the obtuse Grough. What was Brandon's object in following the tracks of the natives? Had he become acquainted with any tribe in his former sojourn in the bush? What did he want with them? Grough was puzzled.

Brandon continued his search after some trace of Helen, but he could find none. After some thought, he followed the track to the right, leading to the north. Grough longed to ask the reason of his taking one track in preference to another, or of his following the track of the natives at all; but conscious of his own meditated treachery he feared to put any question which might lead Brandon to doubt his confidence; Brandon, from the very absence of the question, drew the conclusion that his companion was hatching some trick against him; for if his intentions had been good he

  ― 119 ―
would have spoken without hesitation. He congratulated himself that the brute thought he was outwitting him.

They continued their way, each mistrusting the other. By day the one watched the other; at night neither would sleep lest the other should surprise him. At last, on reaching the top of a low hill, they suddenly discovered some natives on the plain beneath. At the same time they were themselves discovered, and the natives feeling confidence in the depth of their fastnesses, greeted them with a loud yell of defiance.

Spears were thrown, but Brandon did not heed them; he was intent on discovering some sign of Helen. The plain was open, and if she had been there, he could not have failed to perceive her; but he could see nothing of her. It was clear that he was on the wrong scent; he stamped his foot with rage.

Grough observed the action with surprise; but he made no remark, for there was a something in Brandon's look that was dangerous; and the

  ― 120 ―
spirit of the less intellectual ruffian quailed before the mental ascendancy of his superior. But, as the natives advanced, it was necessary to check them.

Brandon had a double-barrel fowling-piece; Grough a musket.

“Fire!” cried out Brandon.

Grough hesitated; he did not like to leave himself without the protection of a charge; for he feared Brandon as much as he did the natives. But as the savages advanced closer, and their spears came thick, Brandon was obliged to fire in self-defence, and, urged by the imminence of the danger, Grough fired also. The natives retreated immediately. Brandon's second barrel was undischarged, and Grough's barrel was empty.

“I'm done!” thought Grough.

But, to his extreme surprise, Brandon desired him to load again immediately.

“He doesn't suspect me after all,” thought Grough.

It was what Brandon intended him to think.

  ― 121 ―

“We must retrace our steps,” said Brandon.

Grough joyfully assented.

Brandon seemed irritable and moody, and was lost in thought.

They went on till they returned to the spot where the two tracks separated.

“This is our way,” said Brandon, pointing to the track.

Grough demurred:—

“What's your game, Mark?” he said; “what's the use of following the natives? We shall only get riddled with their spears some time, or have our skulls smashed in with their waddies! No use in running into danger. The natives won't help us to leave the island. Better go back towards camp and try to seize a boat or something.”

“And be seized ourselves,” replied Brandon. He reflected for a moment. Suddenly he said to Grough:—

“The natives have got the girl with them.”

“The devil they have! How do you know that?”

  ― 122 ―

“I know it; that's enough. We must get her again.”

“What's the use of the girl when you have got her? One girl is as good as another. Let us catch a native.”

“You forget,” said Brandon; “we want this girl as a hostage.”

“As a what?”

“As a hostage—fool! As a pledge—to make terms with her father.”

“Oh! that's another thing. But if the natives have got her, perhaps they want her for a pledge—or a hostage, as you call it—too, and they won't give her up.”

“We must fight for it. If you don't like to stand by me, say so.”

“Oh! I'll stand by you, Mark, my boy; never fear that. But I don't like the job, that's all I can say.”

“Say nothing, then; and come on.”

This course did not at all accord with Grough's private plans; but being an animal of one idea, he kept his mind steadily fixed on

  ― 123 ―
it, and that was to betray Mark and get the reward. He kept on with him, therefore, trusting that the opportunity of mastering him would come at last.

They continued their way till dark; but as neither dared to sleep, from fear of the other, Brandon thought it would be a waste of time to stop. He had marked the “lie” of the country, and the direction of the track which pointed to an opening between some low hills. He thought he could not miss it, and he determined to travel all night, hoping to come up with the natives. But in this he made a mistake which he would not have committed in a calmer state of mind; for he knew very well that to attempt to track footsteps in the bush at night is always useless labour. But the irritation of his mind urged him on.

When the daylight came he found that he was wrong. He was not on the track; and he could form no idea whether he had strayed to the right of it or to the left. His judgment, perhaps from want of rest, had become impaired,

  ― 124 ―
and his mental faculties enfeebled. He wandered about for many days, scarcely taking food, and with little sleep. He always removed to a distance from Grough and hid himself at night. He had become peevish and irritable; and Grough grumbled openly. Still the two kept together, for Brandon wanted Grough to make use of him, and Grough stuck close to Brandon to betray him. At last, however, they found the track again, and Brandon's spirits revived.

They followed it up until they came to the bank of the river over which Helen and Mr. Silliman had passed in the raft.

But the river, always rapid, was now swollen into a boiling torrent, and it seemed impossible to cross it at that place. The traces, however, of the natives who had been there many days before, were distinctly visible; and the trees at a little distance bore the marks of having been cut by a steel axe. But the river was for the present impassable. Brandon threw himself down on the grass furious from disappointment.

  ― 125 ―

But Grough was glad at the hinderance; and sat down at a little distance. Both remained in silence; and both were worn out with the fatigue of constant travelling, and from the want of refreshing sleep.

Brandon revolved in his mind all sorts of schemes for passing the river. He would have risked the danger of swimming across; but he could not dare to be without his fowling-piece. He thought of a bark-canoe after the fashion of the natives; but a glance at the roaring torrent convinced him that the attempt that way would be hopeless.

While he was thus engaged in cursing his ill-luck, Grough was employed in thinking of his own schemes. He was heartily sick of his present life in the bush; there was no fun in it at all! Rather than keep out any longer in such a miserable way he would almost prefer, he thought, to deliver himself up and take his chance. But as he thought, fatigue overcame him, and he fell asleep.

Brandon observed that his companion had

  ― 126 ―
been unable to keep his eyes open; it seemed that he was fast and not likely to wake for some time; he was himself weary to exhaustion, and his eyelids were weighed down with an irresistible desire to slumber. He thought there could be no danger in getting a few winks—only for a few minutes. In fact, sleep he must—and he slept.

It was the first time in his life, as he afterwards remarked, that he had “given away a chance;” and dearly did he pay for it. But his thoughts were so intensely fixed on the prize in his thoughts, and on the difficulties in his path, that he forgot the danger that was near him.

The immediate cause, however, of the fate which presently befell the Bushranger, was so remarkable, that to some, and not superstitious minds, it might have seemed the result of something more than chance; and that the reptile which appeared to play its part so opportunely was not an accidental agent in the tragedy of that eventful day.

  ― 127 ―

Chapter IX. The Snake in the Grass.

THE brutal and treacherous comrade of the Bushranger slept uneasily, and he was disturbed with fearful dreams.

He dreamed that he was standing on the brink of a terrible precipice; above was a black cloud, thick, dark, and impenetrable; below was a depth, so deep that the eye could not scan the profundity of its abyss! Presently it seemed to him that the black cloud descended, and enveloped him in its shroud; then a mighty wind arose, and whirled him from the precipice, and he fell down—down—down,—while a terrible sensation of suspended

  ― 128 ―
breath caused him agony unspeakable! Suddenly he found himself at the bottom of the abyss, and strange creatures, of monstrous shapes, writhed around and over him! He struggled to rise, but his limbs had lost all power of motion, though his senses did not depart from him; and he felt the cold skin of some slimy reptile crawling over his face. So horrid was the sensation that his mental agony caused him to awake; and then he became aware that part of his dream had been suggested by a reality.

One of the large black snakes common on the island was trailing itself over his face, and he instantly was seized with the fear that the creature had bitten him, and that he should die one of the most dreaded of all deaths, and at which wayfarers in the bush are most terrified. But the creature pursued its way, dragging along its loathsome body, and was lost in the long tufted grass by the side of the water.

The trembling wretch who had received this visitation, disturbed by his terrible dream, and

  ― 129 ―
hardly knowing whether he was alive or dead, sat up, shaking with fear, and bathed in a cold sweat, which chilled and benumbed him. Casting his eyes about, he beheld Brandon stretched on the grass and apparently sound asleep. The treacherous object of his subservient attendance now arose to his mind, and the paralysing effect of the recent incident being shaken off by the sight of Brandon at his mercy, he chuckled at the opportunity, and determined to take advantage of it. But the animal had sense enough to consider that, possibly, this seeming sleep of Mark's might be a stratagem to delude him into a betrayal of his own intentions; and Mark, who was “up to every dodge,” was not to be dealt with hastily. He had his fowling-piece embraced with his arm, and that was not to be trifled with. But then if he was asleep, what was so easy as to shoot him as he slept?

But that did not serve the traitor's purpose; his game was to take him alive. What was he to do with the dead body? Besides, if he did shoot him, would that entitle him to the reward?

  ― 130 ―
The proclamation said “deliver up;”—that meant “deliver up alive.” And who would believe that he had shot the Bushranger? It might be said that somebody else had shot him, and then he—Grough—would get nothing by the job, and would be hanged for his pains! That would be a regular mull! No; he must take him alive.

But could he be sure that he slept? He did not move; but Mark was such a deep dog! Grough got up softly; carefully examined his flint and the priming of his musket; looked at the sleeper; fidgetted; doubted; hesitated; looked round on all sides as if to gather counsel and courage from the distant woods; when, as he cast his eye over the plain, he beheld, at the distance of about a mile, emerging from a thick forest of gum trees, three figures, who, he presently distinguished, had muskets in their hands.

He concluded at once that they were either constables or soldiers in pursuit of Brandon and himself. The decisive moment was now come;

  ― 131 ―
and he determined at once to give himself up; to give information of Brandon; and to claim the reward. Skulking away, therefore, swiftly and silently from the bank of the river, he advanced to meet them.

The strangers, on their parts, as soon as Grough arose from the grass, caught sight of him; and not knowing his intentions, immediately retreated back into the forest, trusting that they themselves might not have been seen, and hoping to surprise the man whoever he was, and who, they conjectured, was most likely to be the Bushranger himself, so that they might take him before he had time to make any resistance.

Grough soon cleared the ground between the river and the forest, and when he came to the entrance of it, where the strangers had retired behind the trunks of the trees, he stopped, and calling out, but not too loudly, said, that if they were a party in pursuit of Mark Brandon, he could lead them to the spot where he might be taken; adding, that he claimed the reward for

  ― 132 ―
his apprehension promised by the Governor's proclamation.

The soldiers, for such they were, hearing this, immediately came forward, and commanded him to lay down his arms. Grough obeyed, and laid his musket on the grass.

So great, however, was the popular dread of the Bushranger, that the soldiers held themselves prepared to resist any aggression, and looked about them cautiously, apprehending some trick. They desired the informer to retire, which he did, repeating that his object was to deliver up Brandon to the authorities—for the reward.

“Where is the Bushranger?” demanded the leader of the party, a wary old constable who had formerly been a convict, and who was, as he expressed it, “up to every move of the coves.”

“That's my affair,” replied Grough; “mind, I say, I am ready to deliver up Mark Brandon, and I claim the reward,—five hundred dollars—a free pardon, and a passage to England.”

  ― 133 ―

“And who the devil are you?” asked one of the men.

“Stay,” said the constable, “let us look at the description of the bushrangers.”

He took a paper from his pocket, and read:—

“James Swindell, an escaped convict, five feet five inches high, red hair, marked with the small-pox.… you're not him.…”

“He's a stiff 'un,” said Grough.

“Who killed him?”

“Mark; he shot him.”

“Another chalk against Mark; but he has enough to answer for, let alone that. What's next?”

“Mark Brandon.… five feet ten inches in height, slim make, black hair, black eyes, straight nose,…. you're not him. Let us see the next:—”

“Roger Grough … six feet one inch high, light hair, light blue eyes, short nose, very broad across the shoulders, thick in the lips … That looks like you, my man.”

“I am Roger Grough,” replied the accused;

  ― 134 ―
“and mind I surrender myself and claim the reward.”

“But you have not earned it yet, my hearty.”

“But I'm ready; and mind I give the information.”

“Very good, Mr. Grough. And first we will take the liberty to put these bracelets on your fists—in the Governor's name, you know—all regular. And now, where's our man?”

“There,” said Grough, pointing with his manacled hands towards the river.

“Where? we don't see him. Better have no nonsense with us.”

“The Bushranger,” repeated Grough, “is there—by the side of the water, asleep on the grass.”

“Oh, ho! And so you took the opportunity to put the dodge on him!”

“It's the reward,” replied the traitor, a little—but a very little—confused at the scorn visible on the soldiers' countenances at this act of treachery; but wishing to do something to signalise himself in their eyes, and thinking that

  ― 135 ―
it would enhance the value of his services to enable them to take the redoubtable Mark Brandon alive, he added:—

“But I have another dodge besides that; you shall take him if you like without his being able to resist.”

“How is that?”

“I will steal his fowling-piece from him while he is asleep, and you may fall on him and bind him; and then you will have him as safe as bricks.”

The constable and the soldiers consulted together. It was a particular part of their instructions to take the Bushranger alive if possible, as it was known to the Government that it was in his power to make important revelations. They did not like to refuse Grough's offer; but they distrusted the rascal.

“You will betray us,” they said, “as you have offered to betray him.”

“And lose the reward!” replied Grough; “no, not such a fool as that! Besides I've had a dream!”

  ― 136 ―

He related it. The constable and the soldiers laughed at it.

As it was clear that it was the rascal's interest to keep faith with them on whose report depended his reward, they agreed to let him try his luck.

“We can but have a slap at him if it comes to the worst,” observed the leader of the party.

“You must release my hands then,” said Grough.

The constable demurred at this at first; but after searching him and taking from him everything but the clothes he stood upright in, he nlocked his handcuffs.

“A tidy lot of dollars you have there,” observed one of the soldiers.

“These are my savings,” replied Grough.

“Your grandmother's, that is;—however, that's the Governor's business.”

“You will stand by me to back me up,” said the traitor: “Mark's a desperate man.”

“Aye—aye; we will back you up; and back

  ― 137 ―
you down, too, if you flinch. Now, my prince of noses—march—and be alive.”

Grough obeyed, the constable and the soldiers following him in a row over the plain. When they drew near the sleeping man they stopped.

“There he is,” said Grough, in a whisper, The soldiers looked forward eagerly, and handled their firelocks.

“I've a dodge in my head,” said Grough.

“Be quick then—a man can't sleep for ever in broad daylight.”

“He has not slept for the last fortnight,” said Grough in a low voice; “no wonder he sleeps sound.”

“No matter, lad,” replied the constable, “he will soon take his last snooze, and then he may sleep till doomsday.”

Brandon turned in his sleep; the soldiers presented their muskets at him simultaneously; but it seemed that he still slept.

Grough now made his way noiselessly to the river, and steeped his handkerchief in its waters.

  ― 138 ―
He then crept stealthily up to the sleeping man. He seemed to take a professional pride in what he was about. He had been a dexterous housebreaker at home, and his present deed was a pleasant exercise of his vocation.

He stood over the sleeper for a few moments; the soldiers watched him in breathless silence, covering the two with their firelocks. Brandon slept the sleep of the weary; nature had been exhausted within him, and his senses once overpowered by the resistless influence of sleep were fast locked up in oblivion.

Grough sneaked up to him from behind, like a snake through the grass, and with a delicacy of touch which seemed wonderful in one of his Herculean bulk gently lifted up the steel of one of the locks of his fowling piece, and squeezed some water on the priming. Brandon stirred slightly but did not wake. The traitor then performed the same manœuvre with the other; and as Brandon still slept, he saturated the two pans with water. He tried to remove the flints, but they were fixed too firmly.

  ― 139 ―

The soldiers nodded approvingly. Grough felt all the delight of a workman showing off his superiority in his craft. Mark was now defenceless, and Grough beckoned the soldiers to advance. But as he retired, in the exultation of his success, he neglected to finish it with the same nicety of tact, and as he withdrew his hand, he let fall the wet handkerchief on Brandon's face.

Awakened by the shock of the cold water, Mark instantly started up, and seeing the soldiers with their muskets levelled at him, he snapped the triggers of both his barrels at his enemies—but the barrels were dumb! Looking at the locks and seeing the useless condition of his weapon, he saw in a moment that he was betrayed, and he dashed it on the grass with rage. Determined, however, to sell his life dearly, he endeavoured to disengage his axe from his side; but Grough threw his powerful body heavily upon him, and clasping him closely bore him to the ground; and the soldiers lending their aid, the Bushranger was

  ― 140 ―
secured without bloodshed, and the traitor triumphed! But his triumph did not last long.

The soldiers instantly placed handcuffs on the Bushranger, and then they considered that they had him hard and fast. Mark submitted to this ceremony in silence. He made no reproach to his comrade; dissembling his thoughts he bent his whole soul to the taking of a sure revenge. There was a general pause for a few moments; after which, the soldiers intimated to Grough that, notwithstanding the service he had performed, he must consider himself their prisoner; and without further parley they placed handcuffs on him also.

Brandon looked at the handcuffs on his partner's wrists, and looked at the river, and smiled complacently. He had formed his scheme. Then he spoke:—

“You have betrayed me; but I will not reproach you; the reward was too great a temptation.”

“Lord love your heart,” said Grough, “its

  ― 141 ―
all in the way of business! If I had not done it, Mark, somebody else would; better for a friend to get the reward than a stranger.”

“True,” said Mark.

The soldiers said nothing; they had their duty to do, and they would not insult their captive. They rather pitied Mark, and they looked on his comrade with the disgust with which all generous minds regard a traitor.

Brandon and Grough were standing a little apart; the former took the opportunity to wink to the latter.

“What is it?” said Grough, coming nearer, but keeping out of Mark's reach.

“The sovereigns,” whispered Brandon.

“What sovereigns?”

“The sovereigns from the brig; a thousand of them; I planted them. You may as well have them too.”

“Hah,” whispered Grough, his avarice excited by the gold; “Mark you're a trump! where are they?”

“Come a little this way,” said Mark. He

  ― 142 ―
advanced to the edge of the river. The foaming waters hardly allowed Grough to hear what Brandon said; he advanced nearer to him.

“There are a thousand of them,” repeated Brandon.

“Where are they?” eagerly asked the greedy Grough, bending his head towards his betrayed comrade.

“Come nearer,” said Brandon.

“Where are the yellow boys?”

“In Hell!” suddenly exclaimed the Bush-ranger, darting his body against the huge frame of the burly traitor, and precipitating him into the raging tide; “Go,” he said, raising his voice, “and seek them there!”

“Help!” cried the wretch, struggling with his manacled hands in the furious torrent; “help! my hands are fastened! help!”

The soldiers ran to the water's edge, and while the constable remained by the side of Mark, they followed down by the bank of the river, with a vague idea of rescuing him. But whether it was that their hearts were not in

  ― 143 ―
the work, and that they thought it served the rascal right, or that the furious waters too suddenly overwhelmed their prey, they could do nothing to save him. But the agonised shrieks of the dying wretch broke fearfully the solemn silence of the wilderness; and when his last convulsive cry rose in the air, even the stout hearts of the soldiers shuddered for a moment at the sharp echo of the adjacent woods!

They waited for a short time to see if his body would appear; but as no sign of it was visible, they turned their attention to their chief prisoner, Brandon; and one marching before, and one behind, with the constable at his side, they took their way back through the bush to Hobart Town.

Thus guarded, and handcuffed besides, it seemed impossible that their prisoner could escape. But even so secured, the crafty Bush-ranger did not despair.

  ― 144 ―

Chapter X. Another “Dodge.”

THE constable who had charge of Brandon did not think it at all beneath his dignity to talk familiarly with his prisoner as he walked beside him. Indeed, it is questionable if those officers, many of whom had been themselves transported for various crimes, considered it as a personal degradation for a man to be in custody. It was a “misfortune;” he had tried his luck; he had thrown his chance, and had lost—that was all: and now he was going to be hanged; that was merely consequential; and they were so accustomed to see people hanged that they had ceased to regard it as

  ― 145 ―
anything more than a little episode in their career, which did not much matter either way. It was in the natural and regular order of events that the result should be so; and it was as idle for the hanged to complain of it as it was useless for the hangers to pity them.

The functionary, therefore, who in this instance happened to be on the right side of the hedge, opened the conversation in a cheerful way, not supposing that his prisoner could harbour any malice against him for conveying him to gaol in order to be executed in the regular way:—

“Clever dodge, that, Mark, wasn't it, of that blackguard!—Glad you pitched him into the water:—too good for him, though:—but he didn't deserve to be hanged in a gentleman's company.—Old chum of yours?”

“I scarcely ever spoke to him,” replied Mark, who was aware of the importance of seeming resigned to his fate, and of the expediency of adopting the free and easy style with his new friends; “he was a course, rough

  ― 146 ―
brute—no particular harm in him; but it would never have done to have let him get off scot free after betraying a comrade that way!”

“Certainly not; that is, of course it was wrong to do it; but it served him right—the dirty dog!—only its murder; but of course you're booked without that, so one more or less is no odds; and there's one less rascal in the world, at any rate—and that's something.—Had fine weather since you were out?”

“Remarkably so, lately; but life in the bush is weary work any way. For my part, I began to be heartily sick of it before you took me.”

“I dare say; I never tried it; but it must be a wretched life to be hunted about like a wild animal, and never to be able to rest night or day!—Met with any natives?”

“Yes; we had a tussle with some of them I got hit with a spear in this shoulder; but they can do nothing against our fire-arms.”

“The Governor wants to civilise them, as

  ― 147 ―
he says; but, Lord! that will never do. Of course they will take all the blankets, and bread, and tea, and sugar that you give them; but what's the use of it? You can never make anything but savages of them; and the end will be that they will all be shot down, one after another, till there are none left. The Major that you took the brig from brought one of the native girls into camp the other day; and a fine fuss they are making with her! By-the-by, Mark, what is become of the Major's daughter that you marched off with? I say—that was a bold lark! How did the young lady like the bush, eh? Hope you wasn't rough with her?”

“Is the Major in camp now?” asked the Bushranger, who had a disinclination to talk about the girl, and who wished to parry the question.

“He had left before we came out. He is seeking for his daughter; but it's not easy to find people in the bush, Mark, as you know; lucky hit we made in lighting on you, wasn't it?”

  ― 148 ―

“Perhaps it was; for the sooner an end comes to this sort of life the better.”

“You're right, Mark. I never knew a man that took to the bush that wasn't tired of it at last, and that didn't say that hanging was a relief to him. For you see when a man takes to the bush, what with lying out at nights, and all sorts of hardships—with every man's hand against him—now in fear of the natives, and then in fear of the soldiers; and worst of all with the chance of being betrayed by his comrade as you have been; why, you see, he is always dying by inches, as one may say. But when his fate is once settled his mind is easy, and it's only a jump and a kick, and then all's over!—and he gets rest at last. I heard the parson say to the sheriff, just before the last three were turned off, that they all felt very comfortable!”

Mark's ideas did not exactly coincide with those of the constable in respect to the comfort of being hanged, but he did not care to contest the point at that moment; but he thought that

  ― 149 ―
he might venture to try how far his custodian was cajoleable. Holding up his hands, he said in a peevish tone:—

“These things fret me a good deal.”

“Darbies worry you? Sorry for that; but they are always complained of;—it's unpleasant to have the hands confined, I know.”

“What's the use of them,” said Mark, in a careless way. “You are three to one—and I am without arms.”

“It saves trouble, Mark; I would oblige you if I could, with all my heart: but you know, it's regular, and it wouldn't do to take 'em off—especially with you, Mark.”

“What! are you afraid of me?” said the Bushranger tauntingly; “three to one, and afraid of an unarmed man!”

“Suppose we are? it's paying you a compliment. It's not every day in the week that we meet with such an out-and-out file as you! Excuse me, Mark; but duty's duty.”

“Surely! but your first duty is to yourself;

  ― 150 ―
that's common sense all over the world,” said Mark.

“What do you mean by that?”

“A hundred golden sovereigns are not to be earned easily!”

“What is that to me?”

“It may be a hundred pounds to you, if you like?”

“No go, Mark; duty's duty.”

“I've got a plant,” said Mark; “perhaps two hundred of the yellow boys could be found there at a pinch.”


“In a secret place.”

“But where is the secret place,” asked the constable:—“Excuse me for asking.”

“Excuse me,” replied Brandon, “but if I was to tell you, don't you see that the place would no longer be secret.”

“It doesn't concern me; duty is duty.—Did you say that the two hundred pounds are all in gold?”

  ― 151 ―

“All sovereigns; and they may be yours if you like.”

“Can't, Mark—can't indeed; but if loosening them a little, just to ease you, out of humanity as the saying is, why, I don't care if I go as far as that. But money first, you know, Mark; business is business as the saying is; and there's nothing like the ready.”

“What sort of fellows are the soldiers who are with you?” asked Brandon.

“Stupid as hounds; no use trying them. It's the Major this, and the Major that, all the way along; they have no idea but just obeying orders; they would slap at me as soon as you if they thought I was playing them false.”

“You agree then; two hundred and the darbies off.”

“I thought you said three hundred?”

“No: two hundred.”

“I couldn't—I couldn't indeed; I have my duty to do, and if I was to lose my situation….”

  ― 152 ―

“Come,” said Brandon, who did not like to lose the opportunity of taking the constable in the mind: “I will deal on the square with you. The truth is there are three hundred sovereigns, and in one word they shall be yours.”

“I mustn't take the darbies off, that would be against duty; but I will loosen them for you if they are too tight, and hurt you;—I may do that. But it's all very well, Mark, to talk of three hundred sovereigns! Where are they? That's the question!”

“Loosen the cuffs, and I promise you to leave them at a certain spot by a certain day, where you can take them.”

“Don't doubt your word, Mark; every one says that you are a perfect gentleman and, except murder and robbery and that, which I allow a gentleman is sometimes forced to do, that you never harmed a soul, and always were a man of your word. But duty's duty; and, as you say, Mark, the first duty of a man is to himself; and so the long and the short of it is

  ― 153 ―
—no offence to you—but it must be money down.”

“Agreed: you have no objection to go round by the Bay to the Sound?”

“The Bay! where the brig was that you got possession of so cleverly?”

“The same.”

“What's that for?”

“Because the money lies that way.”

The constable objected that it was a long way round, and that such a departure from their direct way to camp would excite suspicion, and the two soldiers, he thought, might turn rusty. But Brandon invented an excuse, which was sufficient to blind them as to the real object. He pretended to give information of the Major's daughter who, he said, had been confined by him in a cave near the southern coast of the island.

As the soldiers had received orders to look out for Miss Horton in their search for the Bushranger, they readily assented to the proposal for her release; and the more cheerfully,

  ― 154 ―
as they were aware that Mr. Trevor, who was one of their officers, was exceedingly anxious to recover the young lady.

They diverged from the straight course accordingly, keeping to the right, passing round the Sugar Loaf Hill, and by the gorge, through the tier of hills, till they reached the border of the Bay.

The constable was exceedingly assiduous in endéavouring to worm out from his prisoner where the treasure was “planted;” and it was not difficult for Brandon to penetrate that the official rogue would have no more scruple in betraying him than his late associate. He saw, therefore, that it was necessary for him to contrive some counterplot to out-manœuvre his pretended ally. Manacled, however, as he was, the difficulties against which he would have to contend, he was aware, were almost insurmountable. However, he trusted to the fertility of his invention, and to his promptitude, to take advantage of all circumstances in his favour to recover his liberty.

  ― 155 ―

Chapter XI. The Bushranger's Trap.

THE evening had drawn to a close; darkness was coming on, and they prepared to settle themselves for the night. For this the cave formed a convenient resting-place, and they took possession of it accordingly.

The civil power and the military kept watch by turns; the soldiers took the first two watches, the constable the last. The Bushranger lay handcuffed within; the constable reclined at the entrance. The time was now come when, in accordance with their plan, the

  ― 156 ―
Bushranger was to be allowed to effect his escape in return for the bribe of three hundred sovereigns.

When the two soldiers were sound asleep, the constable made a sign to the Bushranger, who, stepping lightly over the bodies of the sleeping men, came to the outside, and crept softly away, followed closely by the constable with his loaded musket. When they had got to a little distance the Bushranger stopped.

“Where is it?” said the constable.

“You must take off my handcuffs before you can get it.”

“Let me see the money first.”

They had now arrived at the foot of the tree in which Brandon had deposited the Major's money. He hesitated for a moment; but he wisely considered that if he was hanged the money would be a dead loss; whereas, it would be well bestowed, or that portion of it, at least, which he had bargained to give, in saving his neck from the halter. He made up his mind accordingly; not without weighing

  ― 157 ―
beforehand, however, the dilemma in which the constable would be placed when he became informed of the secret.

“The gold,” said the Bushranger, “is within the hollow trunk of this tree.”

“How is it to be got at?”

“Take off my handcuffs, and I will get it.”

“It won't do, Mark; I'm too old a hand to be taken in that way.”

“Then go down the hollow and get it yourself.”

The constable did not like the looks of it. It was night; and if he lost sight of Mark, he might make off and elude all pursuit; on the other hand, if he once took off the handcuffs? Mark was a powerful and a desperate man! That was too great a risk. What was he to do then? There was no time to be lost. An idea struck him: now that he was possessed of the secret, he might laugh at Mark!

“I will have no more to do with it,” he said; “duty is duty, and I've changed my mind.”

  ― 158 ―

Mark had already foreseen that he might attempt to back out of the agreement that way, and so keep his prisoner, and secure the money another time. He was prepared, therefore, with an answer, which he made quietly and coolly:—

“If you shirk from our bargain, I will tell the soldiers where the treasure is, and they shall secure it; so that, you will be pleased to observe, you will not touch a single piece of the gold that way; besides, I may think it my duty to mention this little irregularity of your's to those you would not like to be made acquainted with it. Take your choice.”

“You shall go down,” said the constable, desperately, “and get them. I will help you up the tree, and let you down into the hollow, and when you are there I can unlock your cuffs and you can hand me up the money.”

“Do it quickly, then,” said Brandon.

The constable helped him up the tree. When he was at the bottom he kicked his foot against the bag of sovereigns: the jingle of

  ― 159 ―
the coin excited the constable's cupidity to the highest pitch.

“Hand 'em up, Mark! Look sharp!”

“I can't with my handcuffs on.” He kicked his foot against the gold again; the sovereigns returned a rich mellow sound. The constable considered that he had his prisoner safe within the tree, like a rat in a trap. There could be no danger in loosening the handcuffs. Extending his arms down the hollow while the Bushranger held his wrists up, he unlocked them.

“Now, where's the money?”

“I will give it to you when I am out. The yellow boys are all safe in my pocket, but the weight is no joke. Lend me your hand to raise myself up.”

“The money first, Mark; that will lighten you.”

“Well then,” said Mark, “take it; put your hands down, and catch hold of the bag.”

The constable stretched down his hands; the Bushranger seized them with an iron

  ― 160 ―
grasp, and, with a sudden wrench, he dragged the constable head-foremost into the hollow, and, before he had time to struggle or cry out, making use of him as a step to raise himself from the bottom, he sprung up to the top, and let himself drop outside. The constable had placed his gun against the tree when he ascended; the bushranger found it under his hand as he reached the ground; he clutched it fiercely, and, without losing a moment, darted off into the recesses of the bush.

The unhappy constable, caught in his own trap, remained with his head downwards in a most unpleasant position within the empty trunk; but leaving him there to get out as he best may, our history follows the adventures of the ingenious bushranger.

Brandon now found himself once more at liberty, and never before did liberty appear to him so sweet! He had escaped an almost certain and ignominious death; he had regained his treasure; and he had arms for his defence. Bounding along through the woods

  ― 161 ―
in his joy, full of life and hope, and rejoicing in his strength and cunning, he hastened on his way to place himself beyond discovery, before the daylight came to assist his enemies in their pursuit.

His first thought was to make for the seacoast, as being a part of the country never traversed, and where he might remain undiscovered for a long time, as it abounded in rocks and ravines and defiles in which a fugitive could easily conceal himself. But he had not advanced many miles before he came on some fires, which he presently perceived were those of natives. On further examination, he ascertained that there were nearly a dozen huts or breakwinds, so disposed as to betoken that one of the native tribes had made it their temporary dwelling-place.

Being well acquainted with the wonderful sagacity of the blacks in tracking the faintest footstep in the bush, and guessing that his enemies would endeavour to avail themselves of such assistance in their pursuit of him, he

  ― 162 ―
felt that it was perilous to lurk in the vicinity of such dangerous neighbours; and he determined to stick to his original plan of gaining the remote and unfrequented district of the north-west part of the island, until the hotness of the pursuit should be abated, and himself partially forgotten.

To this course he was in some measure determined by his desire to discover the girl whom he had lost at the fight of the Sugar-Loaf Hill; and as he had learned that she had not reached the town, he had no doubt that the natives had carried her off, and that the footmark which he had observed amidst their tracks was hers. He proceeded, therefore, in that direction, and rapidly traversed the country, with which he was now well acquainted, taking care to keep a good look-out, and to avoid passing over clear ground as much as possible, where his figure might be marked by an observer.

The weight of the gold and the dollars, however, embarrassed him greatly, and he

  ― 163 ―
found that it would be impossible for him to keep up his pace with such an inconvenient load. He buried them therefore, in a secure place, the bearings of which he noted, reserving only fifty of the sovereigns, which he disposed about his person in separate pockets.

He was troubled, however, at one deficiency which rendered his fire-arms for the present useless—he had no ammunition. The constable who, according to custom, had searched his pockets for concealed weapons, had taken everything from him, powder and bullets, and even his clasp-knife, which now would have been invaluable to him in the bush. He would willingly have exchanged, at that moment, half his treasure for powder and ball, knife and compass, and such other necessaries as are wanted in the wilderness.

But there was no help for it; and cherishing the single charge which he had in his musket, which, fortunately, was loaded, and guarding the priming from all accident, he kept on his way.

  ― 164 ―

He travelled for two days, in constant fear of the natives by day, and almost afraid to sleep at night from the fear of being surprised. At last he found that his present state of insecurity was too wearing to be endured, and he made up his mind to visit the nearest stock-hut that he could find, and endeavour to obtain a supply of powder and ball. He had plenty of money, and he had no doubt of being able to bribe one of the prisoners of the crown to procure for him what he wanted, as they were always ready to assist one another in that way, and especially when anything was to be got by it.

With this intention he endeavoured to guess his route to a certain part of the Big River, where he knew there was a stock-hut, and where it was likely that the stock-keepers would be provided with arms, and, of course, with powder, as they were liable in that out-station to be attacked by the natives. But he had not travelled more than a dozen miles, when, on gaining the summit of a low bare

  ― 165 ―
hill, he perceived three men on the plain below, who, he immediately perceived, were soldiers, and who, he had no doubt, were in pursuit of him.

He now felt forcibly the danger to which he was exposed. The Government, he had no doubt, had adopted the plan of sending out many small parties of two and three to spread themselves over the country, so as to keep him perpetually harassed, and to wear him out with continual fear and exhaustion. To attempt to approach the settlements, therefore, under such circumstances, was to run into the lion's mouth; but, as ammunition was absolutely indispensable, for without it he was liable at any hour to be massacred by the natives, he conceived a project as novel as it was daring. He resolved to steal one of the soldiers' cartouche-boxes. He manœuvred accordingly.

He saw at once that the top of the hill where he was lying was directly in the soldiers' course; and he felt sure that they would ascend

  ― 166 ―
it for the convenience of looking about them. He instantly ran along the side of the rise till he gained a thick covert where it was easy to conceal himself, and which commanded a view of the opposite side of the hill to that on which the soldiers were advancing.

As he calculated, the soldiers ascended the hill and surveyed the country on all sides; their orders were to search in the direction of the west; but in an uninhabited country, where all the country is waste, they had not much hope of falling in with the two bush-rangers, who were supposed to be out, according to Trevor's information; and if they had not been stimulated by the reward they would not have taken any extraordinary trouble in a task which to them seemed almost hopeless.

But in general the military liked to be invested with a roving commission in the bush, as it relieved them from the tedium of barrack-drill, and allowed them to be masters, so far, of their own time and motions. Besides, they were always sure to be welcomed cordially by

  ― 167 ―
the settlers, and to be regaled with the best that could be set before them. But the duty of penetrating into an unsettled part of the interior was a different affair. There, nothing was to be met with but natives; and there was nothing to cheer or direct them in their wanderings.

In the present case they beheld a wild and uncultivated country, presenting an appearance of the most romantic beauty. Green hill and green dale, for it was the spring-time of the year, the only season in which the dusky brown aspect of an Australian landscape is divested of its usual autumnal tint, met the eye on every side. Stately trees, mingling their fresh green leaves with their brown and yellow winter foliage interspersed with pink, and but sparingly scattered over a magnificent plain, gave to the scenery a magnificent park-like air, which induced the spectator to expect that there must be some princely mansion near to correspond with the vastness of the unenclosed lands around;

  ― 168 ―
while the want of farm-houses or cottages, and the feeling of the absence of any inhabitant of these fertile spots, inspired a sensation of regret that such valuable domains should remain uncultivated and useless, and almost unknown, while there were so many able and willing hands in England whose labour would soon turn the melancholy waste of the wilderness into smiling corn-fields, and thriving villages.

The soldiers, however, to whom this scene was presented at that time, had their thoughts otherwise employed. Their only object was to discover the parties of whom they were in search. Seeing that they were in a good position to observe any moving thing for some distance round, they made a halt, and reposed themselves. Their leader looked at the compass which he carried, and consulted with his comrades. After about two hours' rest, they moved on.

The bushranger kept them in sight, and followed them. It was now towards the close

  ― 169 ―
of the day, and he guessed that the soldiers would seek for a convenient spot to rest for the night, near some spring or stream of water.

There was a small rivulet at the bottom of a hill about two miles distant, and it was there that they cast off their knapsacks, and set about making themselves comfortable for the night. They lighted a fire, for they had no care for being discovered, or fear of being mastered, and, producing some provisions, began their supper.

The bushranger kept them in view, and observed all their proceedings; but as it was necessary for the dark to set in before he could put his design in execution, he waited patiently for the night.

Had the soldiers been aware of who was watching them so sedulously, they would not, perhaps, have eaten their supper so heartily, nor joked so merrily. But, soldier-like, they cared only for the present, and thought nothing of the morrow.

  ― 170 ―

Chapter XII. The False Fire.

WHILE his pursuers were enjoying their carouse of cold mutton and damper which they took from their knapsacks and of fresh water which they drank from the rivulet, the Bushranger went on with his subtle stratagem. Knowing well that soon after dark, or, at all events, at some time during the night, the soldiers would look out for the fire of any wanderer in the bush, he contrived his plan accordingly.

About half a mile from the spot where the soldiers had established themselves for the night, he prepared some dry brush-wood on which he heaped one or two large logs of

  ― 171 ―
dead timber, so as to furnish the materials for a prompt and considerable fire.

But here a difficulty occurred. He had no means of setting light to it! He had only one charge of powder, and if he burnt his priming for the purpose of igniting any dry material, it would involve the discharge of his musket; and not only would the report prematurely alarm his enemies but would leave him without the defence of his shot. But as the case was desperate he was obliged to risk something.

Carefully removing the priming he screwed it up in a little piece of paper which he placed in his waistcoat pocket. Then covering the touch-hole and the pan securely with another piece of paper twice folded he placed on it a piece of dry punk which he had previously gathered from a tree, and snapped his flint over it.

The sparks falling on the punk instantly ignited it without causing the discharge of his piece; and by this means, by carefully blowing

  ― 172 ―
on the tinder which he surrounded with dead leaves, he quickly raised a flame and set light to his fire. When he saw that it was fairly alight, having returned his priming to its proper place in the pan of the lock, he proceeded as quickly as he could, consistently with preserving silence in his movements, to a point where he could observe the proceedings of the soldiers.

They remained lying on the ground for some time by their fire, but at last what the Bushranger foresaw came to pass. One of them got up, and looking to his firelock to see that it was in good order, left the other two, with the intention as the Bushranger did not doubt, and as was the custom in such expeditions, to look out for any fire which the runaway in the bush sometimes incautiously lights.—Mark dogged him; and when the escort got to the top of the low hill which, was between the two fires, he observed that he stopped, peered about curiously, and advancing slowly with his musket ready, approached

  ― 173 ―
nearer to the strange fire to make his observation.

The scout was well on his guard as to what was before him, but he forgot that it was possible there might be danger also behind him.—The Bushranger followed him closely.

The soldier was a brave fellow and had no fear about him; he was alone; in a strange part of the country; if it were the bushrangers who had lighted the fire it was two to one, and Mark Brandon was well known to be skilful and resolute; but he did not like to return to his comrades with the bare news of a fire; he wanted to know more—whether it was a fire made by the natives or whom? With this view he descended the slope of the hill.

The hill was dotted with stunted trees and brush-wood, and the soldier took care to avail himself of their shelter to cover his advance which he did most adroitly; the Bushranger quite admired his address, at the same time that he took advantage of the same cover to conceal his own motions in the rear. When the soldier

  ― 174 ―
got within musket shot of the strange fire he halted, and was surprised to see no one near it.

He concluded, at once, that this was the bushrangers' fire; and that they had sighted the fire of his own party and had decamped without beat of drum.

He applauded his own sagacity in detecting this fact, although he was exceedingly disappointed that no bushranger was near. Unhappily for him there was one nearer than he supposed; for while he was in the act of turning to acquaint his comrades with the amount of his discovery, he found his firelock suddenly twisted out of his hands, and himself saluted the instant after with a stunning blow on the head, which laid him senseless on the grass.

The Bushranger threw himself on the body to stifle any cry of the prostrate man, but it was unnecessary;—the soldier lay without sense or motion; and Mark without losing a moment's time, transferred the contents of his cartouche box to his own pockets; caring nothing for the box itself, which he knew was an encumbrance,

  ― 175 ―
and securing only the cartridges. But, elated with this exploit, he thought that he might be able to do better still.

He had no doubt that the soldiers' comrades, surprised, and perhaps alarmed at their scout's continued absence, would leave their fire to seek him; and he waited for their coming in order to put in execution the next part of his scheme. But after lying in ambush half an hour and seeing no sign of them, he thought he would quicken their motions by another device.

He went back to the top of the hill and discharged his own musket. This he had no doubt would soon bring them upon him; and hastening down the slope to where the soldier was lying, he discharged the soldier's firelock a little while after. Then taking a little circuit, he hastened to the spot which the two soldiers had left on hearing, as they supposed, the report of their comrade's musket, who they guessed was engaged with an enemy and wanted their immediate assistance.

  ― 176 ―

In their haste they left their knapsacks behind them as unnecessary encumbrances in a rapid movement, and which the Bushranger quickly emptied of their contents, taking with him what he thought worth while to carry away, which he deposited in one of the knapsacks; and so provided, and rejoicing in the success of his plot, he made the best of his way off, directing his course as well as he could judge by night, towards the western coast.

He travelled all night; and it was not until he had placed, as he reckoned, at least twenty miles between him and the soldiers, that he drew up. He feasted well upon the provisions which he had taken from the knapsacks; wrapped his precious cartridges, of which he counted twenty-nine, more carefully in separate parcels so as to preserve them from being chafed, and prepared to pursue his way.

He felt a sense of loneliness, however, greater than he had ever experienced before; and the country seemed more dreary and melancholy than usual. But this he attributed

  ― 177 ―
to the great fatigue and mental anxiety to which he had been constantly exposed; but he longed for some companion with whom he might interchange a few words. He dreaded a life of solitariness in the bush. He began seriously to consider whether he could join the natives and become head of a tribe, so as to have some companions or subjects at least.

But he recoiled from that sort of association; besides, he feared their treachery. One thing, however, he was resolved on; to endeavour to find the girl whom the natives had carried away. And perhaps, she might entertain favourable feelings towards the man who should deliver her from their clutches—feelings of gratitude—of something more perhaps? Women were always grateful to their preservers! at any rate he was resolved to seek for her at any risk, and to attempt her deliverance at all hazards.

This resolution served to reanimate him. There was an object in view; something to hope for; something to live for—even in the bush. He continued his way more cheerfully.

  ― 178 ―

He travelled fast and firmly all that day but he began to be puzzled as to the right direction. His flight by night had led him astray considerably. He began to doubt if he had actually made any real progress, for the country in the evening seemed to have the same character as it had in the morning. His mind began to be a little confused; besides, he was faint and hungry, for he had eaten very little that day. He thought he might safely kill a kangaroo.

This he had no difficulty in doing as there were plenty about. He kindled a fire and made a hearty meal. But thinking, that, possibly some one of the parties in pursuit of him might have observed the smoke, he removed to the distance of about a mile from the spot, and finding a convenient place for his purpose, he made the best shelter he could of boughs and leaves and settled himself for the night. He had grave misgivings of having lost the “lie” of the country; but he determined to watch carefully the point at which the sun rose when

  ― 179 ―
the day broke, so as to start fair in the morning.

He passed the night very uncomfortably, for rain had come on, and the boughs under which he lay were not close enough to protect him from the wet. However, the lock of his musket had been kept dry, and his cartridges were all right, so he did not much care for the rest. But soon after daylight appeared, as he was standing before the thicket from which he had emerged, he was startled by the apparition of a huge kangaroo bounding past him, closely followed by two dogs!

He had hardly secreted himself behind the bushes, before a horseman galloped past, whom, at a glance, he recognised as Major Horton! The Bushranger saw that there was danger abroad, and he began to look about him for the most favourable line of retreat. But before he could make up his mind, for he feared that his pursuers were close and round about him, the dogs killed the game in his sight, not above a hundred yards from the place of his concealment.

  ― 180 ―

The Major immediately alighted, and throwing his horse's rein over the branch of a tree close by, advanced towards the dead kangaroo, while the dogs sat up panting by its side, waiting for the share of the game which it is usual for the sportsman to give them for their encouragement.

The Bushranger kept close to his covert, hardly venturing to hope that he should be undiscovered, and resolved to sell his life as dearly as possible. In the mean time, the dogs having been regaled with the slight snack, which on such occasions is moderated so as to whet their appetites without incapacitating them by a full meal for further running, began to hunt about again in circles, and one of them smelling at the thicket in which the Bushranger was concealed, made “a point,” and set up a peculiar whine indicative of his having made some unusual discovery.

  ― 181 ―

Chapter XIII. The Bushranger “A Penitent.”

THE Bushranger cursed the hound in his heart, and would willingly have strangled him if he could have got him within his reach; but the sagacious dog was too wary to be caught, and presently it began to bark. This excited the other who began to bark also; and the Major's attention being attracted to the bush, he took a pair of pistols from the holsters of his saddle and advanced towards it.

It was a dangerous moment for the Major, and the Bushranger was aware of his advantage; he might have shot him easily.—But from some invincible repugnance to shoot the

  ― 182 ―
father of the girl whose recovery was the sole object of his thoughts, he could not bring his mind to resolve to pull the trigger. At the same time another means of escape occurred to him which he forthwith put in practice. He suddenly left his hiding-place, and the Major to his extreme astonishment beheld the Bushranger standing before him! Before he had time to fire, if he had been so disposed, Mark came forward, and in a firm voice, said:—

“Major, I surrender myself your prisoner; you are a gentleman and a man of honour and will not insult a prostrate enemy!”

The Major was a brave man, but he could not help being a little flurried for the moment, at the unexpected appearance of the formidable Mark Brandon, who instead of resisting, as it seemed he might have done, voluntarily surrendered himself!—But quickly recovering his presence of mind, he commanded him—

“To lay down his arms.”

“Major,” said Brandon, “you must be aware that it was in my power as you advanced

  ― 183 ―
towards this thicket, to shoot you down without danger to myself; but honestly, I will tell you that my hand refused to commit a murder on the father of the girl whom I now bitterly regret having taken from your protection.—Sir—you see before you a sorrowful and a repentant man!”

The Major was deceived by this address. It certainly had been in the Bushranger's power to take his life, and he had not done it. This argued sincerity. Besides, the sight of the Bushranger and the thought of his daughter troubled him. Brandon stood before him in an attitude of deep humiliation.

“What has happened to my daughter, and where is she?” asked the Major in a voice which betrayed the agitation which such questions excited.

“She is at hand,” replied the Bushranger meekly, and with his eyes cast on the ground.

“And, villain!” said the Major, as he reluctantly asked the fearful question; “have you respected her?”

  ― 184 ―

“As God is my witness she is as pure as when.….”

“Say no more, say no more,” said the Major; “lead me to her.”

“You would wish, doubtless, to see her alone?”

“Certainly, certainly. I have two constables and three soldiers with me; but I have outridden them.”

“Are they all on foot?” asked the Bushranger, in a humble tone.

“What matters it to you how they are? The constables are mounted as well as myself. But lead me, I say, at once to my daughter. My party will be up presently, and then they can take charge of you.”

“As you please, sir; I am weary of this wretched life, and I do not care how soon it is ended!”

“We will talk of that by-and-bye. First take me to my daughter; and your present repentance and atonement shall be duly considered in the proper quarter.”

  ― 185 ―

“I place myself in your hands, sir; if you will now mount, I will take you to your daughter, who is not more than half a mile from hence. Allow me to place your pistols for you in the holsters.”

A shade of suspicion crossed the Major's mind for the first time at this excessively polite offer, for the talk about his daughter had thrown him off his guard; but before he could bring his thoughts coolly to bear on the extraordinary conduct of the man, the Bushranger had reached his horse, as if with the intention of leading it to the Major. The Bushranger loosened the horse's bridle from the tree, looked back at the Major, and touched his hat respectfully. Then he coolly tightened the horse's girths; and in a moment, gathering up the reins, he sprung into the saddle, and kissing his hand to the major, who was so astonished at the utter audacity of the stratagem, that he had not presence of mind to discharge his pistols at him, was off like the wind!

  ― 186 ―

He was only just in time; for the constables now coming in sight, galloped up, and the Major explaining in half-a-dozen words what had taken place, they struck their spurs into their horses' flanks and started in pursuit. The Bushranger looking back saw the new and dangerous enemies that were behind him, and he, on his side, put his horse to his speed, and the race became hot and strong between the pursued and his pursuers.

The Major's horse was a good one; the Bushranger was a capital rider; he had his musket loaded in his hand; plenty of cartridges in his pockets; he knew the trick of bush-riding well—what gullies to shy, what hills to avoid, and how to take advantage of the ground. He pressed on his horse gallantly. He had the start by more than half a mile. The chances were in his favour. He felt confident in his seat; and the excitement of the ride raised his spirits and called up his courage.

The constables, too, were well mounted; the

  ― 187 ―
Major had taken care of that before he left camp. Their prize was in view; the reward was almost within their grasp; and their minds being undistracted by the thought of the course they should take, their whole energies were bent to follow on, and they did not lose an inch of ground. They, too, felt the excitement of the chase; they had often hunted wild cattle, but they never had hunted a bushranger before!

On went the Bushranger; leaping over dead trees; crashing through bushes; and continually bending his body parallel with his horse's back to avoid the many overhanging branches which interrupted his course; and sometimes, stretching out his right arm, by the strength of his powerful bones and muscles, and aided by the momentum of his speed, wrenching off huge limbs of trees before him. On followed his pursuers, encouraging each other, and trusting that some accident, some trip, some obstacle, would turn the chances in their favour.

  ― 188 ―

But the Bushranger bestrode his horse as if the two formed one creature; he cheered him with his voice, held him lightly but firmly in hand, and husbanded his strength by every possible art of horsemanship. The noble animal seemed to be conscious of the task required of him. He gathered up his strength, and with eyes of fire and nostrils dilated, he breasted the way as if rejoicing in his power, carrying his rider over the perilous leaps which the Bushranger put him at to abridge the way, without flinching or hesitation.

For twelve miles he went on with unabated speed till he came to a plain about two miles in breadth. Here his pursuers, having a clear view before them, fired at him with their pistols, but missed him. The Bushranger heard the report of their shots behind him; and watching his opportunity when his pursuers were close together, he turned round in his saddle and fired in his turn. His shot took effect, slighting grazing the left side of one of the constables; but it did not check him; and

  ― 189 ―
the noise of the fire-arms stimulating the horses to renewed speed, they kept on their rapid course with unabated spirit.

Brandon now had to thread a difficult forest of close tracks of trees, often so close together that there was not sufficient room even for a man's body to pass. Here, as he was obliged to seek for openings, his pursuers gained on him a little; but at the end of three miles he again saw the daylight of the open country beyond, and he urged his horse on without relaxation.

His course now lay through a beautiful country of undulating hill and dale, not more thickly interspersed with majestic trees than was consistent with its park-like scenery. As he left this track behind him, after a course of more than five miles, he became aware that the country descended, and he anticipated that he was approaching some low-lying locality where it was likely that he should meet with some lagoon or marshy ground which would be fatal to him. But so long as the ground felt firm

  ― 190 ―
under his horse's feet he determined to proceed; and if ill-luck should befall him in the shape of some body of water or boggy soil, at the worst he could take his chance of doubling on his pursuers at the last moment. But his mind misgave him that a difficulty was at hand.

That which he dreaded appeared shortly to his view. From the fringe of shrubs which crossed the end of the plain over which he was flying, he guessed that some river was in front; but he could not judge of the nature of its banks, or of its breadth or depth. Feeling that he had a good horse under him, he resolved to swim it, hoping that those behind would not like to run the risk of riding through a rapid river, if it should turn out to be so; and as his pursuers' weapons had already been discharged, trusting that he should be able to get across before they had presence of mind and time to load again.

Even while he rapidly revolved these thoughts he came on the object of his apprehension; his

  ― 191 ―
pursuers also were aware of it, and they set up a shout of exultation at having brought the Bushranger to bay—a shout which served to spur him on to more desperate enterprise.

With one glance he comprehended the extent of the danger which he had to deal with. The river was broad and deep, and having been swollen by recent rains in the mountains from which it took its course, it foamed and raged tempestuously along, with a fury which was sufficient to appal the stoutest heart, and which scarcely any one but a criminal flying for his life would have dared to encounter.

Again the shouts of his enemies rung in his ear! They struck him like the cries of fiends winging their way to his destruction! Without a moment's hesitation he struck his spurs into his horse; and in another instant the horse and his rider were engulphed and struggling in the boiling stream.

His pursuers now set up another shout, but the Bushranger could hear no sound but the

  ― 192 ―
water rushing about his ears. The constables dashed on to the brink of the river; but, appalled at the danger of braving such a torrent, they drew up and stood aghast at the terrific scene! The Bushranger, meanwhile, was hurried down by the current at a fearful rate, his horse's head only now and then appearing above the water; and it was evident that the poor animal, conscious of its peril, and maddened by the rushing of the waters, was making frantic efforts to disembarass itself of its rider.

But Brandon, firm and cool even in that moment of extreme peril, kept his seat firmly, and endeavoured to turn his horse's head towards the opposite bank. In this he succeeded; but as the tide continued to sweep him down, he could find no landing-place, and his horse's strength was fast failing him.

The constables, meanwhile, followed him down the bank, and recharged their pistols. The Bushranger caught sight of them ramming down their cartridges, but he did not despair even then, for he knew that a shot fired from

  ― 193 ―
horseback, at a moving object, seldom hits the mark. But his horse now began to plunge wildly in the water. He knew that this was the last death-struggle of the gallant animal, but he could at that time think only of himself; and the desire of life increasing with the danger of losing it, he looked out eagerly for some means of extricating himself from the river.

Fortunately, as he thought, just as his horse was sinking under him, he came to a tree with branches overhanging the torrent. He grasped hold of one of them, and disengaged his feet from the stirrups; but in accomplishing this he was obliged to let go his musket, which sunk to the bottom of the water. It was not without the greatest difficulty, and by an exertion of strength which despair only could have lent to him, that he was able to swing himself up so as to bestride the branch. The interlaced boughs impeding his efforts to make his way through to the shore, he found it necessary to relinquish his knapsack, which remained suspended on a branch over the water. He then clambered along till he

  ― 194 ―
reached the trunk of the tree; and, holding on by a bough, was in the act of letting himself drop on the grass, when, the constables firing together, and the distance being not more than twenty yards across, one of the balls took effect, and the Bushranger felt himself struck under the shoulder on his right side.

Not heeding the wound for the moment, he made the best of his way through the scrub which lined that side of the river, and continued his course for several miles over difficult ground till he came to a precipitous and rocky hill. He climbed up it, and finding a recess behind a fragment of rock where he could be hid, he threw himself down exhausted and faint, and endeavoured to rally his spirits to decide on the course which he should pursue in his present extremity.

  ― 195 ―

Chapter XIV. A New “Drop.”

THE Bushranger had scarcely concealed himself in his retreat before fresh fears assailed him. His wound bled fast, and his pursuers might track him by his own blood!

It was true, that the swollen state of the river would, in all probability, prevent them from crossing at that point. But he calculated that by ascending the bank of the river towards its source it was likely that they would find a ford; and then, being mounted, it would not be long before they would be down on him again.

Wounded and faint; without arms, and

  ― 196 ―
without the means of ‘procuring’ food; too weak to travel, and beset by enemies, what was he to do? He was wet through, but under ordinary circumstances he would not have cared for that. The salubrity of the climate was such that he had been accustomed to wade through water and let his clothes dry on him without feeling any inconvenience.—But now he was troubled by his wound, which pained him when it began to stiffen. The bleeding, however, had stopped, and the ball had not lodged, but had passed through him;—that was lucky.—He might escape yet.

But as his present place of retreat was unsafe, he determined to penetrate further to the westward. It was not without difficulty that he was able to drag himself along; and after he had proceeded two or three miles he was obliged to stop from exhaustion.

He remained on the ground for many hours; but although his body was at rest, his mind was at work. He pondered on his position;—it was a bad one! Look on which

  ― 197 ―
side he would the prospect was most gloomy. He was without arms, and embarrassed by a painful wound; but the pain was nothing; it was the hinderance to exertion which affected him. And his right arm was useless; his wound had rendered it powerless. He was utterly defenceless.

It then occurred to him that to persist in his course westward was folly; for weak and wounded as he was, if he fell in with the natives he could make no defence; he could not even wield a club. He had a strange reluctance to abandon that part of the country where, he suspected, the natives detained the girl—the daughter of Major Horton; that is, if they had not killed her!

The idea of that shocking catastrophe which his fancy conjured up, affected him powerfully! He got up from the ground restlessly. The shades of evening were beginning to fall, and it was necessary for him to look out for some place to pass the night in. He walked on, but the idea of the girl—murdered by the

  ― 198 ―
natives—did not quit him. On the contrary it came upon him stronger and stronger.

His heart beat at the contemplation of such a terrible death for the poor girl! To be murdered as the natives would do—have done—perhaps—in their savage way of torment! It was horrible! Who but a savage could be so brutal! In thinking thus, some thoughts on murder in general, arose involuntarily.

These thoughts gave him a painful sensation; sudden, sharp, and novel. He tried to cheek them; but they would not be put aside; it seemed as if some second-self within him reproached him with his own crimes! The image of more than one victim of his violence arose in his memory! He walked on to drive the frightful spectres away; but they pursued him faster and faster! His heart sunk within him. He looked round as if he expected to to see some of the victims whom he had destroyed arise in bodily presence to scourge him with their vengeance! A weakness seized him; his head grew giddy; his mind depressed

  ― 199 ―
by suffering, and his body faint with fatigue, both failed him; he sunk on the ground overpowered by his own thoughts, and oppressed with the remorse of his accusing conscience which rose against him.

When he recovered from the profound depression into which the memory of his misdeeds had cast him, he found that it was night. He crept into a convenient bush that was close at hand, and tried to sleep. For a long time that solace was denied him; but at last he closed his eyes.

Fortunately, it rained little that night, so that he was not much disturbed by the wet. When he awoke it was daylight. He felt refreshed, and had strength to look about him. He saw no signs of his enemies, and he began to feel a little more confident. He left his bush-bed and came out into the clear space.

The morning air was fresh and reviving. Restored by his sleep, he began to recover his spirits, which his late mishap and loss of blood had damped; and his strength of mind and

  ― 200 ―
coolness of judgment returned. He felt an inclination to look at his case on its best side. There were still some chances in his favour, and he resolved to take advantage of them.

He had fifty sovereigns in his pockets, and he had nine hundred and fifty more “planted” in a safe place, besides the dollars. He was a rich man! With money one can do anything! His best plan, he concluded, was to endeavour to reach some stock-hut, and bribe some stock-keeper to procure for him arms and ammunition. That was the first thing to be provided. Then he might pick up one or two fellows who would be willing to put themselves under his guidance, and with them he might be able to recover the girl; for Helen was always upper-most in his thoughts. He knew that he should have to run great risks in passing through the bush alone and unarmed; but he trusted to his own resources. “Never say die,” he muttered to himself, “while there's a chance left.”

The rising sun served to guide him in the direction which he was to take, and with a

  ― 201 ―
stake which he broke under his feet from a branch of a tree which he found on the ground, and which served as a staff, in his left hand, he pushed forward with confidence, keeping a sharp look out as well for his pursuers as for natives. Either would be dangerous—most likely fatal. It was not long before he encountered both.

He had not gone more than a mile from his sleeping-place when, on a sudden, he caught sight of a black figure whisking round a tree; it was as if one of the black stumps had become animated, and had been seized with a strange desire of locomotion. But the Bushranger knew well what the vision of that black shape meant. The natives were near him! Now was to come the struggle!

Hopeless as it seemed, and with one arm disabled, this extraordinary man did not even then lose courage. He found that he was able to grasp his staff in his right hand; and he thought that, if driven to despair, the energy of his will might enable him to use it. But the

  ― 202 ―
natives, as cunning as he in their way, did not give him the chance.

As soon as they perceived that the white man was alone, they began to throw their spears at him from different points. As long as they continued to cast them from a distance he was able to avoid them, either by stepping nimbly aside, or by warding them off with his staff. But, as the natives drew nearer and nearer, the spears came too fast and too thick to allow him to defend himself, and three of them found their way through his clothes, and stuck in his body; but he pulled them out again.

The natives now advanced closer, threatening him with their waddies. The Bushranger was standing at the foot of a blue gum-tree, with wide spreading branches. Not knowing what else to do at the moment, he made a desperate effort to climb the tree, and succeeded; and he was presently hidden within the mass of its thick and leafy branches.

But to his extreme surprise he had no sooner secured himself in his place of refuge,

  ― 203 ―
than the natives setting up a loud howl scampered off, leaving him alone in his hiding-place. The meaning of this was presently explained by the appearance of the two constables who came up at a hard gallop, and stopped at the foot of the tree in which he was concealed.

The natives, the moment they saw the white men on horses, of which they are very much afraid, believing that the horse bites and fights with his mouth and legs; and naturally supposing that the riders had come to the assistance of their countryman, fled into the recesses of the bush. The constables were glad of it, as they did not want to have an affray with them at that time. Their object was Mark Brandon; and it was in the course of their ride down the back of the river which they had crossed the evening before about twelve miles up, that they thus accidentally delivered the Bushranger from the certain death which awaited him from the natives.

But they were by no means aware of the

  ― 204 ―
service which they had unwittingly done him. They drew up under the tree and getting off their horses held a consultation which was overheard by the listener above their heads.

The Bushranger heard them discuss the probabilites of finding him, and speak of the certainty of his being hanged when taken. This was disagreeable enough; but after the fortunate manner in which he had escaped from the natives he did not despair. But when he learned that the Government, determined to put an end to his career, had sent out more than a dozen parties of three or four men each, he felt that nothing but good luck of too extraordinary a nature to be hoped for, could enable him to escape such a combination of enemies. It seemed, however, that Fortune was again inclined, for a time at least, to grant him her fickle favours.

One of the constables mounted and left his companion in order to take a survey of the country down the river. The one who staid behind having fastened his horse's bridle to a

  ― 205 ―
shrub opposite to him, sat down under the tree.

He had taken his pistols from the holsters of his saddle in order to examine them. He found that the priming had worked itself out of one of the pans; he cleared out some dirt from under the steel which had prevented it from shutting close; reprimed it, and placed it by his side on the grass.

The Bushranger watched this operation with much interest. The necessity for the possessing himself of fire-arms was pressing; the constable was alone; the opportunity was inviting. The Bushranger conceived a bold stroke; there was no time to be lost if it was to be done at all; creeping silently from his retreat, he hung for an instant suspended by the branch over the constable's head and then dropped on him all at once with his legs over his shoulders.

The constable not knowing what had fallen down on him, whether a native or some wild animal of the woods, shouted out ten thousand

  ― 206 ―
murders! The Bushranger gave him no time to recover himself; seizing the pistol, he ran to the horse intending to make use of it to escape. But the constable who was a bold man and knew that his companion could not be far off, continued to shout, running off at the same time and dodging among the trees.

His fellow heard his cries and came gallopping back to his assistance. Mark had not time to mount, for the horse was restive, and the weakness of his right arm prevented him from assisting himself effectively. He was obliged to let go the horse, therefore, and as there was some dense scrub at a little distance, he hoped to hide himself in its coverts, and make his way through passes where horsemen could not follow.

But his pursuers were too quick for him; and before he could cross a narrow open space which lay between him and the scrub beyond, they were upon his heels. The constable who had been so strangely surprised, being the one most exasperated, was the foremost. It was

  ― 207 ―
an unlucky post of honour for him; for the Bushranger standing on the verge of the scrub, took deadly aim at him with his left hand as he came up, and discharging the pistol which the constable had so carefully reprimed, shot him dead on the spot. The ball went through his heart; the horseman fell instantly.

His companion fired at Brandon and missed; and while he stopped for a few minutes to disentangle his comrade's foot from the stirrup, as he lay on the ground with his horse standing snorting beside him, the Bushranger took advantage of the intricate nature of the ground, and diving in and out among the scrub, escaped.

  ― 208 ―

Chapter XV. The Eagle.

THE race of the desperate marauder, however, was now almost run. His late exertions had caused his gunshot wound to bleed afresh; and the holes which the spears of the natives had made in his flesh were acutely painful. It seemed, however, that destiny had rescued him from the perils which he had escaped in order to reserve him for a more dreadful and signal doom; and if the many crimes which he had committed could be atoned for by any earthly torture, that which he suffered in the wilds of the bush might be considered a sufficient punishment.

  ― 209 ―

He dragged his weary limbs onwards towards the north, hoping to reach some part of the river, which he presently came in view of, by some ford, or by means of some natural bridge in some narrow part of its course. He met neither with soldiers nor natives on his way, and wretched and exhausted as he was, he congratulated himself on their avoidance.

He was faint from hunger; he gathered some native manna from a tree resembling the ash, but larger and higher in its growth, and rougher in its bark than the English ash, which refreshed him a little: but it afforded no nourishment, and he felt the absolute necessity of obtaining some sort of food. He could find no eatable gum in the part where he was, or that would have helped him a little. He was almost tempted to eat some of the large caterpillars or grubs which are abundant on the red gum-tree, but he could not bring himself to put them into his mouth. The gum of the tree being resinous and exceedingly nauseous, none but natives can bear the taste of them.

  ― 210 ―

But while he was looking at the grubs he saw a kangaroo-rat hopping over the grass. He threw a stick at it, and brought it down. He was afraid of making a fire lest the smoke should betray him; cutting open the creature, therefore, he sucked its blood, and tried to eat some of its raw flesh. But such a meal was unsatisfactory and disgusting.

He examined all his cartridges over again; but they had all been spoiled by the wet when he had swum his horse over the river the day before. As they were useless, and their weight encumbered him, he threw them away all but two. He had preserved the pistol with which he had killed the constable, but without powder it was useless. However, the flint and steel would enable him to light a fire if he could dare to do it.

He was surprised not to find himself pursued; but the rocky and difficult country on the western side of the river, over which he was passing, was almost impracticable for horses. He continued his way, therefore, unmolested;

  ― 211 ―
but full of torture both of body and mind, for with the diminution of his corporeal strength, his mental faculties became enfeebled and clouded.

He travelled in this miserable manner the whole of the day, making but little progress, and hardly able to walk, but still urged onwards by his desire to place the greatest possible distance between himself and those who, he felt sure, were in search of him. In this way he contrived to reach the base of a high and precipitous rock which had been visible for some distance before he arrived at it, and which over-hung the river, which at that part was broad and rapid.

He thought if he could ascend the height, he should be able to find some recess wherein he could lie, and find the repose which he so much needed. Some remains of his wonted resolute will came to his aid, and he climbed up the rock; but he could find no cave or shelter on his way. The top of the rock consisted of a narrow platform, about six feet square. In the

  ― 212 ―
middle were the remains of the nest of some large bird, which he guessed to be an eagle. As it was calculated to make a convenient pillow, he pushed it towards one end, and laying his head on it, rested.

The wind was high that night, and it was very cold; but he remained on his rock. He thought that it was a place of security, and he felt a disinclination to move. He tried to sleep, but could not.

The next morning the sun rose bright, and the sky was clear. He tried to get up. He was able to sit upright, but he found himself so weak that to descend the rock was an impossible task. He had been very cold in the night; but now he felt parched and fevered. The sun shone hot upon him; but instead of reviving his benumbed limbs by its warming beams, its heat only blistered him. He longed for some shelter, but there was none. The rays of the sun were scorching on the bare rock; and soon his brain seemed to be on fire! The weary hours seemed as if they would never pass away! The

  ― 213 ―
inexorable sun seemed fixed in the heavens! In his delirium, he almost believed that the huge ball of fire stood still to increase his torments. He crawled to the edge of the rock to throw himself down into the cool waters beneath; for his agony was insupportable.

But first he thought he would leave a memento of his death to those who might find his body; and he was penetrated with a strange desire that the money which he had buried in the bush should not be lost. It was a strange fancy; but arising, perhaps, from the habits of his mind during a long series of years. He determined to record the manner of his death and the spot where the treasure was concealed.

He had the means ready at hand in a large pocket-book, which had formed part of the booty taken from the brig, and of which the constable who had taken him to the cave had not thought it worth while to deprive him, as nothing was written in it. The long pencil which had belonged to it had dropped out.

  ― 214 ―
He cast his eyes about for something to make a mark with; and he spied, sticking up by the side of the platform, a feather from an eagle's wing. It seemed not to have been long dropped. He thought this a lucky circumstance.

He fashioned the quill with the clasp-knife which he had taken from the soldier's knapsack into a pen. He was about to make some soldiers' ink out of one of the cartridges which had been wetted by the water, and which he had preserved. But another thought struck him: his principal wound bled at intervals; he moistened his pen from the eagle's wing with his own blood—and wrote.

The occupation distracted him from present pain and anticipations of the evil that was to come. He had a grim pleasure in writing with his own blood. He took it into his head to put down an account of the many murders which he had committed, and his various other crimes. It was a terrible list. He had a sort of satisfaction in showing a pre-eminence in

  ― 215 ―
his line; the world, he was resolved, should have something to remember him for! He continued to write his history; pausing only at intervals when a faintness seized him, till he was interrupted in his occupation by a shadowing of the sun, which he attributed to a passing cloud.

He looked up in thankfulness to bless the friendly shade—when he beheld one of the largest of the great eagles of Australia poising on its wings at no great distance above his head, and in the attitude of pouncing upon him. The eagle, as it bent down its head with its hooked beak, shot fire from its eyes on the intruder in its haunt, and its long sharp claws retracted and extended ominously, as if eager to fix themselves on the devoted carcass of their destined prey.

  ― 216 ―

Chapter XVI. Tracking in the Bush.

VAGUE reports in the mean time reached the town of the capture of Mark Brandon, and of his escape; and all sorts of rumours were in circulation respecting Helen and the natives. How they arose, or whence they came, no one could tell; and the mystery which seemed to hang over Helen's fate and the Bushranger's proceedings, only increased the general curiosity and anxiety.

Trevor suffered, day by day, and hour by hour, the tortures of a painful suspense, which at last became intolerable; and, in spite of the

  ― 217 ―
remonstrances of his medical attendant, the ensign's representations to his commanding officer were so urgent, and his distress of mind was so severe, that a reluctant consent was given to his departure, and he lost no time in making his preparations.

The same corporal who had been his companion before was allowed to accompany him with three other soldiers, so that the party was sufficient to defend themselves against all ordinary attacks of the natives, and were more than a match for the two bushrangers, should they fall in with them.

Having completed his equipment, and provided necessaries for a lengthened journey in the bush, which were placed on a led horse, part of whose load consisted of a small bed-tent; and having taken particular care, this time, to be furnished with a couple of axes, and with two pocket compasses to provide against the accident of separation, not forgeting two well-trained kangaroo dogs, Trevor visited Louisa to take leave of her, and to

  ― 218 ―
encourage her with hopes of good tidings not only of her sister but of her father.

The native girl was present at this interview; and as Trevor talked energetically, and frequently pointed to the west as the side of the island towards which he was about to direct his steps, he observed that Oionoo was much excited. Struck with the circumstance, he remembered that, some days before, she had been very earnest in pointing in that direction, and that she had talked very fast and with much gesticulation, about something which they could not understand, but which, it was evident, she was desirous to tell them.

She had already learned to repeat a few English words, for which all the natives have a remarkable aptitude, being as excellent mimics of sounds as monkeys are of actions, although there have been as few examples of the former attaining much proficiency in the meaning of English as of the latter shaving themselves correctly. Trevor tried to make her understand that he was going into the

  ― 219 ―
woods a long way off in search of Louisa's sister.

Louisa said she thought Oionoo understood him.

Trevor was all ready for starting, and his party was at the door; but an idea occurred to him which he thought he might turn to account. He tried the girl again:—

“One,” he said, pointing to Louisa; “two!” intending that she should understand there was another Louisa, “two! gone! lost!”

The native knew what “one, two” meant, for being excessively fond of sugar, she had learned to say “two” when she wanted another lump; and they thought she comprehended what he meant by “two” Louisas; but he could not get on further.

“Describe to her the fight with the natives,” suggested Louisa.

Trevor did so. He acted over again the fight at the Sugar-loaf hill, and imitated the throwing of spears; and then endeavouring to look as savage and as much like a native as

  ― 220 ―
possible, which made the girl laugh, he described, in action, the carrying away of Helen, as he supposed had been the case, pretending to perform that operation on Louisa; and he finished his “ballet in action” by going through the mock process of making a fire and eating Louisa, which made the black girl at first laugh louder than ever, and then suddenly look grave.

“Stop a little,” said Louisa, “Oionoo is thinking; I am sure she understands us. See, she is going to speak!”

Oionoo said something in a serious tone of voice; but as her auditors could not make out what she meant, they could only shake their heads and make other signs expressive of their not being able to understand her.

Oionoo immediately led Louisa into the garden, through the window, which was open, and taking off her shoes, ran a little way on the soft walk, leaving the impression of her naked foot on the ground. She then came back, put on her shoes again, and ran on as

  ― 221 ―
before, leaving the marks of her shoes near the imprints of her naked feet. Trevor and Louisa watched these proceedings with much interest.

Oionoo now returned and commenced looking about as if to discover the signs of some one who had gone before. She acted her part admirably. Suddenly she pretended to see, for the first time, the mark of a naked foot—and she looked sorry: then she seemed to catch sight of the mark of the shoe and seemed glad. Pointing to herself, and pointing to the marks, she gave Louisa to understand that she—Oionoo—could find the other Louisa in the bush.

“I understand her,” said Trevor; “these natives do not seem to be deficient in intelligence after all. She means, that the mark of a white woman's shoe is easy to be distinguished from the naked foot of the native; and that she could track it.”

He pointed to the west and explained to her by signs that she should go with him, and

  ― 222 ―
track the footsteps of the other Louisa. Oionoo nodded her head.

“I will take her with me,” said Trevor; “I have often heard of the extraordinary sagacity of the natives in tracking through the bush. She understands what we want, and she can serve as our guide. She seems to have no objection to go with me. Come,” he said to the black girl, “come.”

Oionoo followed him readily to the door, and stood outside quietly, while Trevor took an affectionate leave of Louisa; but when she found that the party was moving off without her white friend and protectress she ran back again, and taking hold of Louisa's dress, squatted down at her foot, and refused to stir.

Louisa made earnest signs to her to accompany Trevor; Oionoo made signs equally earnest that Louisa should come too. The difficulty was embarrassing. No signs of entreaty would make her stir without Louisa. There was a gunny-bag full of brown sugar in an adjoining store-room. Louisa caused it to

  ― 223 ―
be brought out, and made her understand that all that quantity of sweet stuff should be hers, if she would serve as Trevor's guide in the bush. But she looked on the reward with indifference, and kept tight hold of Louisa's gown.

“We must have her,” said Trevor; “she may be the means of recovering your sister. Try to make her understand that it is your command that she should go.”

Louisa now put on an angry countenance; she stamped her foot; looked on the black girl with an air of authority; and by signs intimated to her that it was her order that she should go. But Oionoo leaving hold of Louisa's gown, crept into a corner of the room, and putting her hands over her face, cried lamentably.

“Poor thing,” said Louisa, “she will not leave me; but as you think that by her assistance she may recover Helen, I will try another way, and if that fails, why I will put myself under your care, Mr. Trevor, and for such a sacred object, I will remember that I am a

  ― 224 ―
soldier's daughter and accompany you myself!”

The emotion which the tender girl felt in speaking this determination brought tears into her eyes. Oionoo regarded her earnestly; she crept from her corner; came near to Louisa; took hold of her dress again, and looked up sorrowfully and wistfully in her face.

Louisa shook her head, and made a motion to push the native girl from her.

The poor black girl fixed her large black eyes on Louisa with the most pitiable expression of countenance; it was the first time that her white friend—her guardian and protectress, had looked down on her with an eye of displeasure! The poor girl felt it bitterly, her tears flowed fast, and she bowed down her head in sorrow.

Louisa was much grieved, but Trevor encouraged her to proceed:—

“Make her understand,” he said, “that it grieves you and makes you cry because she will not be my guide to find your sister.”

  ― 225 ―

As soon as Oionoo comprehended this, her whole manner changed in a moment. She stood erect, and her manner was firm and decided. She was about to leave the room to join the party on the instant; but Louisa detained her for a moment. She pointed to Trevor, and clasped her hands together, to intimate that the girl should not leave him. The girl seemed impatient at this, and again turned to go; Louisa kissed her and embraced the native affectionately. It was then that the floodgates of the poor black girl's tears were opened afresh, and she wept and talked passionately, embracing and kissing Louisa's feet with the most extravagant expression of attachment and affection. Trevor could not refrain from giving utterance to the thought which the native girl's sensibility excited:—

“Sterne, was right,” he said; “these black people have souls after all.”

At the sound of his voice, Oionoo arose, and with a calm and resolved expression of countenance followed Trevor out of the town.

  ― 226 ―

They kept along the high road until they came to New Norfolk, about twenty miles from Hobart Town, where they stopped for the night. The next day they turned off to the westward, Trevor having previously ascertained that his shortest course to the Sugar-loaf Hill, which was his first point, was by that route.

As soon as the native found herself fairly in the bush and out of sight of human habitation she kicked off her shoes, which the corporal considerately placed in one of the packages carried by the sumpter-horse. She would have cast off her sailor's trousers, and spencer also, in order to be more free and easy in her journey; but to that absence of ceremony the old corporal was the first to object, saying, that, “although she was black she was a woman, and that it was the duty of a soldier to pay respect to the fair sex, whether black or white, let alone a poor ignorant native who had trusted herself to their protection.”

In this way, as the party was strong and

  ― 227 ―
well provided, and as their hearts were in their work, they soon left hill after hill behind them. They crossed various small streams by wading, and pressed on till they reached the Shannon River which they were obliged to trace upwards for some distance towards its source at the Great Lake, before they could find a practicable ford. Then turning to their left, Trevor endeavoured to find his way to the Sugar-loaf Hill; but he had over-rated his ability of finding his way in the bush; and notwithstanding his compass he found himself lost in a wild part of the country where they were encompassed within a mighty cluster of undulating and continuous hills.

In this difficulty he had recourse to the native, who had hitherto acted a passive part. He had a strong desire to reach the spot where the fight with the natives took place, for his own satisfaction; and he judged that if he continued his course so as to cross that line of route, the native would not fail to distinguish the tracks which had been made in that direction.

  ― 228 ―

He made her understand, therefore, that the time was come when she was wanted to discover the tracks of the little shoe.

Oionoo readily comprehended him; and she began diligently to search with her eyes right and left, but without stopping. Trevor remarked that she preserved a straight line in the direction which he had pointed out to her, as if prompted by a sort of instinct, and that she passed over all sorts of obstacles without hesitation. In this way they continued their journey for many miles, without any intimation being given by the native of the tracks they were in search of, nor of any other sign of white people or of natives.

This want of success filled Trevor with much uneasiness; he began to suspect that, by some delusion of direction which is so frequent with bush-travellers, they were altogether wrong in the course they were pursuing; or that Oionoo did not possess the talent of tracking which was generally considered as one of the most notable characteristics of the natives. But his doubts

  ― 229 ―
were presently put an end to by an exclamation from the black girl.

She stopped, and pointed to some trace on the ground which she regarded with extreme astonishment.

Trevor looked narrowly at the place, but he could see nothing; the rest of the party also examined the spot, but they could detect no mark or footstep.

Oionoo, however, persisted in pointing at the place. She examined the shoes of all the party, and seemed to compare them with the trace which her eyes detected;—but this, it was evident, was unsatisfactory to her. At last she looked at the horse which carried their provisions, and not without some hesitation and fear, speaking to him in a deprecating tone, she examined his foot, which one of the men held up for her.

Satisfied with this view she clapped her hands, and pointed to the trace which the white people could not see, and to the horse's foot, to signify that there was a track of that foot. She

  ― 230 ―
then began to survey the ground here and there to discover another mark of the same sort, which she presently did, and soon after another and another, pointing in a direction different from that which Trevor had been pursuing.

As it was known that Major Horton, who had gone into the bush in search of his daughter, was provided with horses, Trevor judged that these were their tracks; and he thought it might be useful to endeavour to overtake the Major, and communicate with him respecting their common object. He made signs to Oionoo, therefore, to follow up the track, which she did with great alacrity, seeming much pleased to be employed; and it was not long before she discovered the track of white men's shoes, which she intimated to Trevor by signs which were easy to be understood.

In this way they continued their march for some time, but without coming up with the party which had preceded them; but the marks of the horse's hoofs were so plain on such parts of the ground now and then, as were clear of

  ― 231 ―
grass, and seemed so fresh, that Trevor considered they must have been very recently made, and that if they pushed on vigorously, they could not fail to overtake the Major. Urging his men forward, therefore, and encouraging them with kind words—not unaccompanied with promises of reward for diligence—he followed Oionoo, who strode along at a prodigious rate, and seemed to rejoice like a wild animal in her return to her native wilderness.

  ― 232 ―

Chapter XVII. The Natives at Home.

WHILE these preparations were being made for the recovery of Helen from the natives, who it was conjectured had carried her away with them;—although many contended that she had certainly been murdered by the savages long before this time,—the poor girl remained in captivity with the tribe which inhabited the extreme verge of the western coast of the island.

No personal violence had hitherto been offered to her; but the intentions of the black chief were most decidedly expressed with respect to her being included among the number

  ― 233 ―
of his wives, while a similar honour, as was most significantly expressed by the old woman, was destined on her part for Mr. Silliman. That fascinating person was determined to have another husband, and as she could not get a black one, was content to have a white one.

Being the daughter of the old chief, and exercising, in his name, the patriarchal influence which he enjoyed, and which, from habit, his tribe continued to pay to him, although he had lost the physical strength which had raised him to that eminence, she had no difficulty in obtaining the consent of the fraternity to admit the white man into the tribe; and, in accordance with her directions, preparations were made for performing on him the ceremonies customary on such occasions.

These ceremonies were not many, nor very important; but the solemnity with which the priest or conjuror of the tribe entered on the inauguration of the new member, and the mystery in which the preparations were enveloped was by no means calculated to remove

  ― 234 ―
the dread with which the unfortunate Jeremiah was inspired at being made the victim of their barbarous rites.

If it had not been for his reluctance to leave Helen unprotected amongst the savages, he would have endeavoured to effect his escape alone into the bush, and encounter all the wild animals, snakes, and bushrangers, on the island, rather than face the terrible old woman for whom he was to be duly qualified as a husband. Helen was so absorbed in the contemplation of her own wretched fate, that she could scarcely bestow any commiseration on that of her companion in misfortune. Compared with her threatened union with the old black fellow, Jerry's matrimonial alliance with the lady seemed nothing!

In the mean time, the conjuror painted himself, in a mystic manner, with red ochre and chalk, and summoned Jerry to the ordeal.

It is to be observed that the natives of Van Diemen's Land differ from the natives of the large continental island, forming, pre-eminently,

  ― 235 ―
the Australian portion of the globe, in language, and in some customs.

The continental natives build better huts in the winter season; clothe themselves partially with the skin of the kangaroo; make use of better weapons; and are subjected, wild and savage as they are, to certain forms and religious ceremonies unknown to the aboriginals of Van Diemen's Land. But, in some points, the practices are similar, and it was to these that Mr. Silliman was now summoned to submit himself.

The first of these was more disagreeable than dangerous. As it was impossible for the natives to communicate with their neophyte by speech, they were obliged to leave the discovery of the object of their ceremonies to his unassisted ingenuity. Jerry conjectured rightly when he supposed that the first act of initiation was to prepare his mind, by solitude and reflection, for a due estimation of the importance of the ceremonies which were to come.

But it was his ignorance of what those ceremonies

  ― 236 ―
would be, that puzzled and frightened poor Jerry; however, there was no retreat. He had been made to understand that there was no alternative between entire submission and being roasted alive at an enormous log-fire which had been kindled for the occasion. With a most rueful expression of countenance, therefore, he quitted Helen, and the women of the tribe, as it was an essential part of the ceremony that no female eye should witness the mysterious rite of male initiation, and accompanied the black fellows to a place at a little distance from the encampment.

The priest, if it can be permitted to apply such a name to such a person, and who differed in nothing from his fellows so far as Jerry could observe, except his being the fattest and the sleekest of the lot, first stripped Jerry with great gravity, and placed his clothes aside; he then proceeded to mark the white man's body with a piece of red ochre, in various curious devices, symbolical, no doubt, of his state of probation.

  ― 237 ―

This being done, and Jerry, in buff, being transformed into a sort of illuminated edition of a white man, the priest led him into a place in the bush apart, which had been previously consecrated in some way known only to the priest himself, where he was left alone to silence and meditation. Jerry peeped out and saw the black fellows about thirty yards off, in a circle, watching the sacred spot.

In this way they passed the night, no one stirring; and as Jerry was too cold to sleep, he had ample leisure for reflection on the mutability of human affairs in this world, and on the hope of a world to come. He had a strong suspicion of the great wood fire which he had passed on his way to his present resting-place, and he had an indefinable dread that the world to come was to be opened to him that way; a conjecture which increased still more his general disinclination to depart from this; and the ceremony of the next day was by no means calculated to lesson his apprehensions.

Shortly after the dawn, the priest visited

  ― 238 ―
him, and examined him attentively. As Jerry did not know what to say, he very wisely held his tongue; and as it happened this was the very thing which was expected of him. The priest rewarded his tractability with a grim smile, and hastily leaving him, returned with a piece of roasted kangaroo's flesh, which Jerry devoured with much appetite. This also, seemed to please the priest, who pinched his loins and shoulders much in the same way as a butcher feels a sheep to see if he is fat enough to be killed: a ceremony which Jerry considered was of a dubious character; especially as the priest grinned with his teeth approvingly, an expression of satisfaction, which caused poor Jerry to conceive very disagreeable anticipations of the cannibalistic propensities of the black rascal. The priest then left him.

In about half an hour the priest returned, carrying with him the materials for the new member's next probation.

With a dexterity which surprised Jeremiah, the old gentleman proceeded to dress him up

  ― 239 ―
in the guise of a kangaroo. He placed on his head and over his body the skin of that animal with its fur on as natural as life; he wrapped the skin round him, and secured it with strings made of the strips of the stringy bark tree.

The tail of the animal stuffed with grass projected behind, and the priest was pleased to teach Jerry to wag it with the hand in an easy and graceful manner, intimating to him at the same time, that he would presently be called on to hop in imitation of the creature which he represented.

Jerry thought there was no great harm in that, provided they did not carry on the allegory too far, and kill and eat him to make the resemblance more complete. He began hopping therefore, with much pains, about the small space in which he was enclosed, and his performance seemed to the priest so excellent, and Jeremiah in his new dress was such an admirable likeness of a kangaroo, that the master of the ceremonies hastened to give

  ― 240 ―
notice to his companions that the sport was ready to begin.

Jerry sat on his haunches, his ears pricked up, and his kangaroo head erect in anxious expectation. Presently he saw the natives in a body, advancing on tip-toe to the place where he was ensconced, and acting the part of looking about for a kangaroo. They examined the ground, smelled to it, snuffed the air, and tried to penetrate with their eyes into the bushes where Jerry lay; but all in the utmost silence.

Presently one pretended on a sudden to discover the kangaroo; he communicated the information by signs to his fellows, who now advanced with quick steps to the bush, brandishing their spears and waddies in a threatening manner. Jerry did not like the looks of them; he began to doubt whether they were in jest or earnest, they acted their parts so well. While he was deliberating a spear passed a little way over his head. This was too bad! and Jerry making a desperate spring, cleared one side

  ― 241 ―
of the bush fence, and appeared in the open space beyond.

A loud shout from the natives proclaimed their admiration of the feat; and they followed him with joyful cries, throwing their spears at him occasionally, which hit him with hard bumps, but their ends being blunted they did him no farther injury. The frequency of their occurrence, however, so alarmed Jerry, that without more hesitation, breaking out into a brisk run, he endeavoured to avoid the repetition of such native compliments.

And now the chase grew fast and furious; Jerry bounded along, his tail thumping the ground in the most natural manner imaginable, and the natives following after shouting, screaming, yelling, and performing all sorts of antics as they pursued him round and round the encampment. Helen's curiosity was roused by the general excitement, and as this was a part of the ceremony which females were allowed to look upon, for the reason perhaps that it could not easily be prevented, the whole

  ― 242 ―
collection of gins old and young assembled to witness the performance, greeting Jerry as he passed them in his circular career with vociferous screams of delight and laughter.

Even Helen, as Jerry passed her at full speed, with his enormous tail wagging behind him, in spite of the anxious thoughts which oppressed her with regard to her own fate, could not forbear from smiling at the ludicrous figure which Mr. Silliman cut in his extraordinary costume! He had only time, as he shot by her, to ejaculate “Oh, miss!” when he was lost among the bushes, and Helen, to avoid the mob of savages who were in pursuit, retired behind the women.

As the natives adroitly hemmed in Jerry during the chase, within a certain circle, and as he soon became fatigued with the exertion, he was glad to take refuge again in the retreat from which he had set out, where his tormentors left him unmolested; and, shortly afterwards, the priest visited him, and said something to him with a severe countenance

  ― 243 ―
and in an angry tone, which Jerry could not fail to interpret as a reproof for some breach of etiquette which he had unwittingly committed.

And, in truth, poor Jerry had offended against the practice of that august ceremonial in a way which gave rise to sinister observations among the savages. Instead of hopping like a kangaroo during the last ceremony, he had used his legs like a man, an offence which went far to vitiate the whole proceeding, and which exposed them to the ridicule of the women who had assembled to admire that popular part of the entertainment.

From what followed, however, it would seem that, at the intercession with the priest of the daughter of the chief, Jerry's misbehaviour was overlooked, on the condition that next day he would abide firmly by the further test which he was to be exposed to.

Jerry passed that night as he had done the first, with the exception that the kangaroo-skin served to keep him a little warmer; and

  ― 244 ―
as the air was mild and continued remarkably dry for that season of the year, he contrived to get a little sleep. This time the priest brought him a grilled opossum, which, although it stunk abominably of the peppermint tree, Jerry was compelled to eat to satisfy his hunger.

He judged from this change of food that he should be obliged to climb trees like an opossum; but he was mistaken. His next ordeal was of a very different nature; it was called in the native language “the trial of spears.”

On the morning of this concluding ceremony, the priest stripped the half-adopted brother of his kangaroo appurtenances, and having touched him up under the eyes and on the forehead with some masterly strokes of red ochre, he led him forth into a large clear space, where all the men of the tribe were assembled to take part in the exhibition. The old chief, from his infirmities, was merely a spectator of the trial.

Ten spears were now given to Jeremiah,

  ― 245 ―
and he was placed about sixty yards from a particular spot in front of the natives, who all had spears in their hands. Jerry observed that those given to him were sharp, and he concluded that the spears in the hands of the black fellows were sharp also. This circumstance troubled him not a little; and when he found himself standing alone, with all the savages congregated opposite, he began to fear that a principal part of the ceremony was to make a cock-shy of him for the others to cast their spears at! Nor was he far mistaken in that conjecture.

Jerry being thus posted, and the priest in a loud voice having made an exhortation to his flock, which from the significant gestures used Jerry conceived was an urgent admonition on his part to the others to take good aim and stick their spears into the mark, the sport began.

First one native came up to the appointed distance, and threw his spear at Jerry; it went wide of the mark.

  ― 246 ―

Then another came on and tried his skill.

If Jerry had not turned this second spear aside with the bundle of similar weapons which he held in his hand it would have inflicted an ugly wound. Jerry's dexterity in defence elicited a warm shout of approbation from the savages; but whether the expression of it was in favour of the marksman or of the target, seemed to Jerry doubtful.

One by one each of the natives discharged his spear; and it was an evidence of the general harmless nature of the ceremony, though as savage in its practice as the wild people who invented it, but on this occasion the object of their practice escaped unhurt.

It was now Jerry's turn to try his skill; and the priest having harangued him singly in a strain similar to his first speech to the natives, resumed his place by the side of the chief.

A native now advanced with a spear in his hand and took his place on the spot from which each had cast a spear.

Jerry considered this as an invitation to

  ― 247 ―
have a shot at him, but in his inexperience he threw his spear sideways, and his clumsiness was received with a shout of derisive laughter by the others.

Another native succeeded, and Jerry threw a second spear at him. This was better. He now tried his luck at a third, and this time the spear nearly reached its mark. The fourth seeing the very narrow escape of the last, held his own spear in an attitude of defence to ward off the coming missile.

But this cast was a decided failure, and it was owing perhaps to the contempt with which the natives regarded their new brother's want of skill, that the tenth man disdaining to avail himself of his spear of defence which he threw on the ground, was hit by Jerry's last spear which entered the native's right arm.

Nothing could have been more fortunate for Jerry than the success of this last exploit, as it established him on the spot in the good opinion of his sable brethren; and far from

  ― 248 ―
exhibiting any ill-will at the event, they treated him with extraordinary respect, and escorted him in a body to the daughter of their chief, to whom they presented him as one worthy of her distinguished preference.

Jerry was now in the high road to preferment; but thinking that he might turn the favourable opinion of the natives towards him to good account, and judging that they would now have confidence in him and be less strict in watching his motions, he intimated to them by signs that it was necessary for him and the white woman to perform certain ceremonies of their own in private. He pointed to the sun which was declining, and endeavoured to make them understand that the rites which he was about to perform were in deference to that luminary.

The old woman seemed inclined at first to dispense with more formalities, but the priest, who was curious to know what the white man would do, pronounced an authoritative opinion, as Jerry conjectured from his manner, in favour

  ― 249 ―
of their new brother's proposal; and Jerry, taking advantage of the opportunity, lost no time in putting the design which he had conceived into execution.

Accordingly he dressed himself again in his clothes, and taking the old black woman by the hand to disarm suspicion, and with the priest on his other side, followed by the chief and the rest of the male tribe, he advanced to the quarter of the women, where Helen was, sitting on the ground.

Taking a hint from the priest's proceedings, he harangued Helen in a loud voice, pointing to the sun, and marching round her in a circle. His speech which, of course, was not understood by the natives, was to inform her of the plan which he had formed for their escape that night, and to explain to her the part which she was to act. He took care frequently to point to the sun during this manœuvre, the better to impress on the spectators the reality and sincerity of the white man's ceremony.

Telling Helen to rise, he instructed her to

  ― 250 ―
walk before him, and intimating to the men by signs that they were not to follow, he directed her to proceed to a certain spot, in an easterly direction, where a clump of fern trees would serve effectually to screen her from observation.

Accompanied by the chief and the priest, they marched solemnly to the appointed spot; and, having placed her within the recess, Jerry drew a line around her with a bough of a geranium which he plucked as he proceeded: and then having placed four similar boughs in the ground, at the four corners of her retreat, he retired with the conjuror and the priest in the same solemn manner as before!

The sun now began to sink below the horizon, and Jerry returned to the spot in the bush in which he had been placed by the priest during the ceremony of his own initiation; and making his two companions understand that he desired to be left alone, they retired.

The ingenious Jerry, whose wits were sharpened by danger and necessity, now pretended

  ― 251 ―
to busy himself with various mysterious preparations in order to deceive the conjuror or any other inquisitive savage who might be observing him. He then laid himself down on his back as if to watch the stars as, one after another, they rose to view in the heavens; but listening to the slightest noise of what was going on at the native fires.

In this state he waited, in a state of most anxious suspense, until the natives should be buried in sleep, which would afford him the opportunity of carrying his bold resolution of escape into effect.

  ― 252 ―

Chapter XVIII. The Escape.

FIRST one, and then another native coiled himself up under his breakwind for the night. Jerry waited till the general silence gave evidence of the whole tribe being fast asleep. The night was cloudy; a favourable accident for his enterprise, as the natives have a superstitious fear of the dark.

Jerry stole noiselessly from his covert, and looked cautiously about; all seemed safe; he could not distinguish any one on the watch. The fires before the natives' low bark-huts were burning brightly at a little distance; the rest of the bush was involved in deep obscurity—rendered

  ― 253 ―
more gloomy by the contrast of the light of the burning logs. He knew the ground well; and endeavouring to prevent the slightest rustling of the bushes, or the least sound from the cracking of the dry sticks in his path, he bent his way to the spot where Helen had been placed apart in preparation for her marriage with the black chief.

He threaded his way successfully through the thickets; he heard no one stirring; his plan seemed to prosper; and for once Fortune seemed to favour him. He reached Helen's resting-place without hinderance or accident. She was ready at his touch; and without speaking they set out together.

Helen could not disguise from herself the extreme hazard of the step they were taking, nor the perils to which they would be exposed in the bush; but death in any shape was preferable to a marriage with the old black fellow. She had many times endeavoured to communicate to the woman, that, if they would take her back to the town of the white people, a great

  ― 254 ―
reward of axes and nails would be given to the tribe; but they either could not or would not understand her. Their present desperate flight, therefore, was her only alternative.

Neither was Mr. Silliman less determined to brave all rather than encounter the endearments of that hideous old woman! to say nothing of his being dieted occasionally on half-broiled opossum, and gum-tree caterpillars! Besides, there was a spice of romance in him, after all; he was good-natured, and did not want courage, although he was without the habit of exercising it in action; and to be knight-errant to “Miss Helen” was a high privilege, and a stimulant to heroic deeds. He felt proud of himself as Helen followed him in silence through the forest.

They were not without some plan, however, in their flight. They had previously agreed that the point to which they should direct their steps, in the event of their being able to elude the vigilance of the savages, should be a high hill, on the top of which a tall and remarkable

  ― 255 ―
tree presented the singular appearance of a ship in full sail. Besides, they knew that the breadth of the island was but small, and that by keeping towards the east they must at last come to some district inhabited by settlers. The obscurity was so great, however, that they could hardly make their way through the forest. It was a painful journey, but hope supported them; and the fear of the fate from which they had escaped, was greater than the fear of the dangers which they encountered.

As soon as they had got to such a distance from the natives' fires that they thought they might talk in safety, Mr. Silliman endeavoured to support Helen's courage by representing that they could not have more than seventy or eighty miles to travel at the most—for the island was only an hundred and fifty miles wide—before they came either to the high-road leading from Hobart Town to Launceston, or to some settler's farm, or stock-keeper's hut. He assured her, also, that there were no wild beasts on the island, except a sort of hyena,

  ― 256 ―
which had never been known to attack a white person.

What Helen most feared was snakes; and she often shuddered as she trod on some soft substance bearing a resemblance to the feeling of their moist cold skins. Her shoes had been worn out some time since; but she had contrived for herself a pair of mocassins, made of kangaroo-skin, which she found much more easy for bush-travelling than shoes. Jerry had accommodated himself in a similar manner; and a light wind having dispersed the clouds overhead so as to allow the stars to lend their light for their guidance, they were able to proceed at a pretty good pace. As they increased their distance their spirits began to revive.

Helen had retained possession of the small pocket-pistols found in the knapsack, together with the powder-horn, and a little bag containing about a dozen bullets. She had never allowed them to quit her person, and with these weapons they resolved to defend themselves to

  ― 257 ―
the last; but they were too small to be efficient except at close quarters. Besides these means of defence, Jerry had the axe, which on the day of the ceremonial he had been allowed to appropriate to himself. Thus provided, they considered they could make a tolerable resistance,—for a time, at least;—and, at all events, they had made up their minds that it was better to die fighting in the bush, or any way, than be at the mercy of the natives.

With this resolve, they continued their way through the wilderness the whole of the night, until they were both compelled to stop from exhaustion. But even as they stopped, the rising sun began to gild the snow-white tops of some high mountains, which they observed behind them to the north-west; and presently the light of day appeared to cheer them. They saw no signs of the natives, and they flattered themselves that they had not been missed. In this hope, however, they were mistaken.

They reckoned that they had proceeded at

  ― 258 ―
least twenty miles during the night; but it was afterwards known that they had not gone mere than ten, so deceptive is travelling in the bush, especially when forests have to be traversed. Trusting to this calculation, Mr. Silliman thought that Helen might safely repose herself for some hours, for her fatigue during the night had been very great. But after resting a short time, she declared her readiness to proceed.

Before they set out, however, they carefully examined their pistols; Helen had one, and Mr. Silliman the other. They would be but a poor defence, he felt, against the natives, if the whole tribe should pursue them with hostile intentions; but for his own part, he resolved to sell his life dearly, and defend Miss Horton with his axe to the last; and it was not long before his courage was put to the test.

They were now traversing wide plains, not inconveniently covered with trees. This sort of country continued for about eight miles in

  ― 259 ―
the direction which they were travelling. Thick scrub and an exceedingly dense wood then intervened between that point and nearly the water's edge of a broad and rapid river, which was the same crossed by them on the raft, and the one which the Bushranger had swam over when he lost the Major's horse, and received his wound.

But of these circumstances they were ignorant; they directed their course by the sun, without knowing anything of the part of the country over which they were passing, and which had never been explored by the colonists. The events of this day, however, were destined to give that district a memorable celebrity.

They had already reached the entrance of the scrub which approached the wood bordering on the river, when Helen, casting her eyes back to take the bearings of some remarkable objects, to assist them in preserving a straight line—a practice abroad, when she was in Germany, which had been taught her

  ― 260 ―
by her father—fancied she saw a moving object behind them. As they had seen many kangaroos in their way, she disregarded it at first; but the object continuing to advance, she pointed it out to her companion, and they were not long in perceiving that it was a native; and in a minute or two more they could distinguish that it was the old woman from whose affectionate home Mr. Silliman had ungallantly eloped the night before.

He was by no means, however, in the humour to comment jocosely on that circumstance, as the matter was too serious; for her appearance betokened the propinquity of others of the tribe. It was evident that she was on their track; to hide themselves, therefore, was hopeless. The best plan was to push forward, and try to discover some cave the entrance of which they might be able to defend with their tiny fire-arms against the attack of the savages. With this intent they kept on their course to the thick forest of trees beyond the scrub.

  ― 261 ―

The weather had been remarkably dry for some weeks, and that day was fine, but the sun was very hot. Mr. Silliman had been congratulating Miss Horton on the former circumstance, and had been expressing his regret at the latter; but the sight of the old woman put a sudden stop to all such complimentary expressions. She perceived them, they were sure; for as they plunged into the thickets, they saw her raise up her arms in a threatening manner, and Helen observed that she held in her hand the firesticks, usually carried by the natives in all their excursions.

They saw no one with her, though they could not hope that she was unaccompanied; and they were aware that she walked much faster than they did. But without waiting to discuss the amount of the danger, they pressed forward, and reserved their breath to accelerate their pace; they would willingly have made it a run, but they were too tired for that exertion. In the mean time, the old woman continued to gain on them. As they reached

  ― 262 ―
the entrance of the wood she overtook them, and they were obliged to stand at bay.

Planting herself in their path, she stood before them, and commenced a vehement harangue, supported by the most energetic gesticulations; and although they could not understand a word that she said, they guessed that she was exhorting them to return, and was threatening them with the vengeance of herself and of her tribe, if they refused. She frequently pointed to the country behind them, which they construed into the information that all the savages were on their way to overtake their prisoners, and that they would presently be upon them.

Seeing that her intended husband paid no regard to her remonstrances, she was about to return on her steps, to urge her black companions to hasten forward to recapture them; but as this by no means “suited his book,” as Jerry said to Miss Horton, he proposed that they should seize the woman, and if necessary put her to death. Helen hoped that would not

  ― 263 ―
be necessary, not only because she had a strong disinclination to take the life of a native, but because the death of the woman would serve still further to exasperate her countrymen. But it was necessary to do something decisive to stop her.

Mr. Silliman beckoned to her to come back to them, as she turned round to threaten them once more. The old woman stopped; but with the instinct of savages, she saw a something in his eye that was unfavourable to her; and she hesitated. He advanced towards her; she retreated; and was about to run off, when to alarm her, he fired off his pistol, and she fell immediately to the ground; but it was only from fright.

Without losing a moment he rushed on her, calling out to Miss Horton at the same time to come and assist him; and before the woman could recover herself, he tied her hands tightly together. At this treatment, however, her terrors as to what more was to be done to her becoming excessive, the old woman set up a shriek

  ― 264 ―
so horrid and so shrill, that both Helen and himself feared that it could be heard by the other natives a dozen miles off, and Mr. Silliman was obliged to have recourse to the expedient of stuffing her mouth with some of the long coarse grass, which was abundant under their feet. He considered it prudent, also, to tie her legs together, so as to give them time to get some distance ahead, before she could give information of them.

Helen remarked that the fire-sticks which she had let fall had inflamed some dry twigs which stood near, at the foot of a decayed tree whose charred appearance gave evidence of its having already suffered from fire; and she feared that it might serve as a guide to the natives in their pursuit.

But Mr. Silliman observed that it did not matter, as the presence of the old woman proved that the natives would have no difficulty in tracking them. To remove her fears, however, in respect to the fire attracting attention, he attempted to put it out; but the

  ― 265 ―
unusual dryness of the season had rendered the materials so inflammable that the fire had begun to burn fiercely, and had already ignited the charred trunk of the tree under which it had been kindled.

Not wishing to lose time, and as the extinguishing of the tree which was on fire was beyond their power, they abandoned the attempt; and [leaving the old woman on the ground securely fastened, they hastened on through the wood. But the trees were so close together, and the dead timber which covered the ground was so thickly strewed in their way, that their progress was necessarily slow. However, they toiled diligently through, rejoicing that they had managed so well to escape the danger threatened by the old woman; but a new peril now beset them, from an enemy more savage and devouring than the natives themselves, and one with which mortal strength had little chance in coping.

From the increasing light, and the crackling

  ― 266 ―
of burning timber in their rear, they became sensible that the forest was on fire; and from the strong smell of smoke which now assailed them, they knew that such wind as there was, blew directly from the fire towards themselves.

They had no idea, however, at the moment, that a fire in the woods of Van Diemen's Land was so fierce and so rapid in its progress; but they were soon to learn, by bitter experience, another, and the most dreadful of all the perils of the bush.

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Chapter XIX. The Burning Forest.

HELEN'S courage at the appalling sight of the blazing wood, now began to fail her at last. She had escaped from the bushrangers, and from the natives; but from her present peril she saw no escape!

The dead timber with which the surface of the ground was covered, afforded ready materials for the extension of the fire which spread rapidly on the right and on the left; while the flames, leaping from bush to bush, and from branch to branch, licking the tall stems with their fiery tongues, threatened to form a blazing canopy of fire over their heads.

  ― 268 ―

She endeavoured to console herself and her companion with the consideration that the flames which bore such danger to themselves, would serve as a fiery screen to keep off the natives who they did not doubt were in pursuit of them. But all fear of the natives was presently swallowed up by the urgency of the peril which immediately assailed them; for the fire, they clearly saw, outran their most strenuous efforts to fly from it; and it was so close on them, that it was evident to both, that to attempt to get out of the range of the flames by a side-movement, would be only a waste of time, and a folly to think of;—their only chance of escape, if chance there was, was by flying directly before it.

But they soon began to feel the effect of the heat produced by so great a body of fire, giving them a foretaste of one of the most dreadful of deaths; and the smoke began to encircle them within its thick dark folds, so that sometimes it was only from the sound of the crackling wood behind them,

  ― 269 ―
that they were able to keep in the right direction.

To add to their fears they found themselves beset by numerous black and diamond-spotted snakes, which, driven from their retreats by the advancing fire, wound their way rapidly onwards, but happily too intent on saving themselves to molest those who were flying from the same danger. Nor was this the worst; for the flames, suddenly finding materials more inflammable to feed on, spread themselves on both sides of the struggling fugitives with extraordinary rapidity, threatening to enclose them and thus cut off all possibility of escape.

But still they kept on their course; jumping over logs of dead timber; scrambling through the underwood; and exerting every nerve to hasten their flight from the terrible enemy roaring behind them. The wood was so thick, and the smoke so obscured the atmosphere, that they could see nothing before them but the straight and branchless trunks of the tall

  ― 270 ―
stringy-bark trees; and when the fire increased in its circular direction around them, they lost their guide and mark by which they had hitherto directed their course.

Blinded by the smoke; their senses scared by the fire; and their judgment lost, from the imminency of the peril which surrounded them, they hesitated in their flight;—not knowing which way to direct their steps, and meeting with flames on all sides,—they stood still, and awaited their doom in silence.

Helen sunk on her knees, and prayed aloud and fervently! Her fellow-sufferer stood aghast at the frightful sight of the blazing forest, and gazed at the flames which were coming thick upon them in trembling and speechless helplessness! There was no longer any hope; and both were so exhausted by their previous exertions, that they had not strength to stir.

“This is a dreadful death to die,” said Helen to her companion; “but there is no hope! And at least it is better to die thus than by the

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torments of the savages. The fire blazes fiercer in that direction than ever!”

“It is all over with us, miss!” said poor Jeremiah. “I could not move an inch farther if the fire was burning my legs.”

“We must say farewell to each other, my good friend,” continued Helen; “but at least I can thank you for having been the means of releasing me from the savages; and if I had lived, depend upon it you should have found me grateful.”

“You are very good to say so, miss; and if we had not been burned as we are to be, if you would have put in a good word for me with your sister, Miss Louisa;—but it is too late now! To be burned to death in this way! It is very dreadful! There's a blaze! Miss: we must try to get away a little further from those flames! Your dress will catch fire in a moment!”

“Try and save yourself, my good friend,” said Helen. “I cannot move a step further, I

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am so exhausted. Save yourself, and tell Louisa that my last words were—”

She was interrupted by a blaze of light from the inflammation of some dead bushes, so close that the flames almost scorched her. The effect was so powerful on Jeremiah that he started up, and although, the moment before, it seemed that no peril and no pain could force him to move, he suddenly found himself excited in an extraordinary manner.

“It is too hot to bear,” he cried out: “Miss Horton, get up and try to move a little farther off.”

“Impossible!” replied Helen; “I am utterly exhausted, and I cannot move. But, save yourself, my good friend, and leave me to die where I am. The smoke will soon stifle me before the fire comes!”

“But the fire is come, miss,” replied Jeremiah; “and if your dress catches, how are we to put it out?”

“Save yourself,” repeated Helen; “but tell my dear father—and I should like you to say to

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Mr. Trevor—from me—say that I was encompassed by flames when I sent the message—say—that I was dying—my good friend—you will particularly remember to say that I was dying——”

“I have heard the Bushranger say, ‘never say die while there's a chance left!’ and here is a chance left, Miss Horton: I feel myself strong again. I can carry you a little way; and I will do it. I will never leave you to be burned to death while I save myself! Give me your hand, miss, and get up.”

Helen raised herself up; but she would not be carried. Jeremiah had scarcely assisted her a few yards when the wind rose and blew over them a shower of sparks from the burning charcoal, and it seemed, for a few seconds, that they were in the very midst of the fire, and about to be consumed. But the same wind cleared also the space before them from the thick clouds of smoke which impeded their view. It was only for a moment; but that moment of time served to reveal to them

  ― 274 ―
that they were approaching the verge of the forest, for the broad glare of day appeared beyond, forming a contrast by its white light with the red flames of the burning trees.

The hope which had been extinguished in Helen's heart now revived! She felt herself animated with new energy; but it required the utmost stretch of exertion on the part of both to keep ahead of the flames. Every instant of time was precious, for they saw the fire sweeping round with rapid strides to the point whither they were urging themselves forward; and just as they reached the spot they found their passage barred in that direction by a solid wall of fire!

  ― 275 ―

Chapter XX. The Modern Prometheus.

“WE can escape yet,” said Helen, “See! the ground is free to the left. There is smoke, but no fire.”

They made their way through the smoke, and found themselves treading on loose stones interspersed among the bushes, and presently they came on large masses of rock. The flames were raging to their left, and spreading onwards. They could see nothing before them, the smoke was so thick; but as they continued their course, they found themselves ascending a rocky mound. Judging, that if they could get on the summit of some

  ― 276 ―
high rock, they should be secure from the flames at least, although the smoke would embarrass them, they encouraged each other to proceed.

The wind now rose again, and increased till it almost became a hurricane. The two toiled up the mound which now had assumed the appearance of solid rock, and the wind, which increased the power of the flames, but which dissipated the smoke, enabled them to see their way before them.

They were now within a few feet of the top.

“Courage, miss,” said Jerry, as he assisted her up a nearly perpendicular declivity; “we shall be at the top soon, and then we shall have a flat surface to rest on.

“What is that strange noise?” asked Helen.

They listened; and they heard a noise like the flapping of wings.

“It must be some great bird!” said Jeremiah.

A shrill and discordant shriek now assailed

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their ears, of a sound so strange and fearful that had they not been hanging as it were on the verge of a precipice, which made it more dangerous to go back than to move forward, they would have recoiled from a cry of such evil omen. But even as they heard it, they had, by a powerful effort, gained the summit of the rock, and then to their amazement, and not less to their terror, they beheld a powerful eagle, of the vulture species, with its talons firmly fixed in the body and garments of a man, who was lying prostrate on the rock and who was writhing under the creature's monstrous beak and claws!

At the sight of the strangers the gigantic monarch of the mountains flapped its huge wings, and shrieked with its hoarse throat, as it struggled to disengage its claws, which had become entangled in the clothes of the man, who moaned piteously, but who seemed to be deprived of all power of motion. And still the great eagle screamed and struggled, and Helen and her companion looked on with horror, for

  ― 278 ―
in spite of the change which had taken place in the features of the man, who even before death had become the vulture's prey, one eye having been already digged out as a dainty which that voracious bird most delights to revel in—they distinguished the countenance of THE BUSHRANGER!

“It is Mark Brandon!” exclaimed Jeremiah. “This death is more dreadful than to be burnt alive!”

“It is that terrible man,” repeated Helen, with her hands clasped in terror at the awful sight. “Such a death as this is horrible indeed!”

The quivering wretch seemed to be still sensible; for at the sound of Helen's voice, he uttered a painful groan, and his lips moved as if he wished to speak. But the eagle, angry and alarmed at the presence of strangers, who had come perhaps to dispute his right to his prey, now redoubled its efforts to release its claws. It beat its wings with convulsive struggles; but the weight of the body was too great for it to lift into the air. Their power

  ― 279 ―
however, was sufficient to enable the creature to drag the body to the edge of the rock on the contrary side to that where Helen and Jeremiah stood, and which rose to a perpendicular height of nearly a hundred feet from its base, at which a mass of decayed wood and dry shrubs was fiercely burning.

The dying wretch now seemed sensible of his coming fate; for with the instinct which prompts all creatures to cling to life, he clutched feebly at the edge of the precipice as he toppled over into the burning abyss The eagle uttering discordant cries at being deprived of its prey, soared aloft towards the clouds; and Helen and her companion—impelled by an irresistible impulse—looking down from the height, beheld a shower of burning sparks uprising from the raging fire, as the still-living body of the murderer crashed into the flames below!

They shuddered and drew back. Neither spoke; but they regarded each other in silence—filled with awe and wonder!

  ― 280 ―

After a while, Jerry began to congratulate Helen on their almost miraculous escape, when casting his eyes down he saw a pocket-book which after some little hesitation he picked up, and which Helen immediately recognised as having belonged to her father.

She opened it; and there, written in his blood she saw short snatches of the Bushranger's former life. Curiosity excited her to read one. She read aloud:—

“The eagle is come again” …….

“Stop!” interrupted Jeremiah; “what is that on the right-hand side—by the side of the water?”

“Heavens!” exclaimed Helen, “it is a native!”

“And there is another,” said Jerry; “and another! And by St. George and the Dragon, there is the old woman! I should know her among a thousand! They have tracked us! And—look! they see us! It is the whole tribe after us! Oh, miss! miss! here's a job! Was ever there anything like it! Out

  ― 281 ―
of one mess into another! What's to be done now?”

Helen looked around her. On each side was a precipice; before them was the river which flowed bubbling and sparkling in its rapid course; and on the other side were the natives, who having caught sight of their prisoners on the top of the rock, uttered savage cries of vengeance and came tumultuously on. Jeremiah now really gave himself up for lost; but Helen did not lose courage:—

“We have two pistols,” she said; “they are but small, but they will be something; and we have powder and bullets.”

“We will fight for it,” said Jerry. “I remember the Bushranger,” and shuddering as he spoke, “used to say, ‘never say die while there's a chance:’ ”—

“They cannot attack us from behind,” observed Helen, casting her eyes round and regarding the precipices which surrounded them; “The savages must come on in front.”

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“That's not much comfort,” replied poor Jerry, whom the rapid succession of dangers had rendered frightfully calm; “but as it is all we have got, we must make the most of it. If it comes to the worst I should prefer going down into the water here in preference to the fire on this side. But it's not much odds perhaps. Now miss, do you stand behind me, so that when the natives throw their spears they may hit me first; and at any rate we will have a fight for our lives.

But Helen, disdaining to avoid her share of the danger, took her place on the left-hand side of her kind-hearted protector, and thus posted, they awaited the onset of the savages, who with loud screams and yells were swarming up the rock.

  ― 283 ―

Chapter XXI. The Rock of Despair.

THE natives came on screeching like devils, and maddened to fury by the sight of their victims standing at bay. They were headed by the old woman and the conjuror, who held waddies in their hands, which they brandished with frightful contortions. The doom of Helen and Jerry now seemed sealed, for they could not hope to resist so many enemies.

“Had we not better try fair means first?” suggested Helen; who, overcome by the weakness natural to her sex at the sight of the

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approaching conflict, was desirous of avoiding a scene of blood and slaughter.

“It would be of no use,” replied Jeremiah; “I see that horrible old woman at the head of the gang, and she looks like a fury from the regions below. If she catches me she will eat me—I feel sure of it.”

The savages advanced nearer and nearer. They began to throw their spears.

“Pray, Miss Helen,” said Jerry, “do lie down flat on the rock, so that the spears may not hit you. I should fight better if I wasn't afraid of your being hurt; I should indeed. There! that old rascal, the conjuror, is aiming at you with a spear! It's coming! See, it has lodged in your dress! Pray, miss, keep out of the way, and give me the other pistol and let me fight. Or—stay; do you load while I fire; that's the way! Now I'll give them a shot!”

He fired among them, and they were so close that he could not avoid hitting some one. The wounded native screamed out; but the

  ― 285 ―
rest, impelled by a thirst of blood and vengeance, disregarding their fellow's hurt, rushed up the rock as rapidly as its steepness would allow, and in a few seconds more they would have gained the top of the platform, where their bodily strength would have overpowered the two occupants in a moment, when Helen called out:—

“There is a loose piece of rock hanging over the edge where we got up. Stamp on it with your foot; perhaps its fall will frighten the savages away.”

Jerry never before had reason to be so well satisfied with the fact of his own obesity; albeit that his plumpness had been considerably reduced by his late forced travels, and his meagre diet among the natives. Taking advantage of Helen's suggestion, he immediately began to jump most vigorously on the fragment of rock projecting over the slope on which the savages were clustered.

Thanks to his weight and to the agitation of the mass which his jumps produced, the

  ― 286 ―
huge lump became more and more loosened from its bed, and presently it fell among the assailants with a prodigious crash of dust and splinters.

“They have got it now,” said Jerry; “the savage wretches! That has tumbled more than one of them over.”

“They are going,” cried out Helen, advancing to the edge from which the piece of rock had been detached; “they are going,” she said, clasping her hands, “and we shall be saved!”

“But they are coming again,” said Jerry; “nothing seems to harm that old woman. There she is, brandishing her waddie at us! How she would enjoy smashing in our skulls! They are on us again! we must give them another shot.”

Jerry fired again; but whether it was that the report of the little pistol was not loud enough to strike terror into the savages, or that they had begun to disregard the puny-looking weapon, the assailants pressed forward

  ― 287 ―
again with loud and furious cries. Jeremiah asked Helen for the other pistol which he had given to her to load; but on looking for the powder-horn which she had laid on the rock, it was not to be seen. By some accident, either she or Jerry had kicked it, as they supposed, from the platform, and their only means of defence was gone!

“It's all over now, miss, that's certain!” said Jeremiah; “but I can throw the pistols at their heads as they come up, and have a fight with my fists when it comes to the last. And there's the water below as a last resource. But what is that? Miss Horton! look down there. There is a man on horseback! and another! and some on foot! See! Scream out! Screech! Scream! If you are a girl, I say scream! Girls can scream loud enough sometimes when they're not wanted. Keep it up. Scream, while I fight the savages with my fists!”

Helen screamed loudly; but her voice at such a height would have been of little avail,

  ― 288 ―
had she not waved her handkerchief from the top of the rock. That unusual object in such a place was not long in attracting the notice of those below on the other side of the river. She saw one horseman immediately dismount. The figure of a man instantly sprung on the horse; even at that distance her heart told her who that figure was!

The horseman without losing a moment instantly dashed into the water, and hastily made his way across.

“Are they coming?” said Jerry; “the savages will be on us in another minute. They are jabbering about how they shall do it!”

Helen lost sight of the horseman at the base of the rock, but she saw the other two take their measures more coolly, though without losing a moment of time. Holding hands and forming a line, the persons on foot made their way through the water, which at that point was shallow but exceedingly rapid, preceded by one of the horsemen and followed by

  ― 289 ―
the other. They were immediately hidden from her sight.

“They have crossed the river,” exclaimed Helen.

“Heaven be thanked!” said Jeremiah; “but I fear they will be too late; the savages are coming up in a body.”

Helen turned her head, and beheld some of the savage faces of the natives peering over the ledge of the platform.

“Make haste! make haste!” she screamed out to her advancing friends; but her feeble voice was useless amidst the din of the savages' yells as they came almost within grasp of their prey!

“Oh!” exclaimed Helen, bursting into tears with the excitement of mingled hope and fear, “they will be too late!”

“There goes one fellow,” said Jerry, as concentrating all his strength in one vigorous blow, he gave an old savage a tremendous punch in the face with his fist.

  ― 290 ―

“I hear a shot fired!” cried out Helen. “It is to tell us that they are at hand!”

There seemed to be some irresolution among the savages at this moment, and they looked behind them.

“There goes another shot; they are coming nearer fast!” said Jerry,—“the savages look puzzled! There go more shots.—Stand out of the way, miss, or you may be hit! By George! they are driving the savages upon us!—Fall down, miss.—fall down—flat on the rock, and cling to it with your hands and feet! The savages will be up and on us in another moment!”

Even while he spoke, five of the natives had gained the level space of the platform, which was scarcely large enough to hold them. Jerry seized one of them by the middle, and hurled him down the precipice into the river. But at the same instant another powerful native clasped Helen round the body, and tried to carry her off.

“Hold on, miss!” cried out Jerry; “hold

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on with your nails! I see our friends coming up! Hold on—a moment longer! For the love of Heaven! hold on!”

“Helen!” cried out a voice which the poor girl knew well. “Helen; where are you, Helen?”

“Here?” screamed Jerry, who was struggling with the natives, and fighting with his fists against their waddies, with which they were beating him. “Here—she is; a native has got hold of her, and in another moment they will both be off the rock into the fire!”

Helen held out her hand to Trevor:—the native, with a savage grasp, held her by the other arm. Trevor drew a pistol from his belt, and fired! The ball crashed through his brain, and the savage with a spring fell over the precipice. Jerry, choosing the least of two dangers, rolled himself up into a ball, and let himself tumble down the slope, where he was presently stopped by his friends; while Trevor, at the same moment, pulled Helen from the platform, and fell with her

  ― 292 ―
into the supporting hands of his soldiers, who had followed him up quickly, and who were close behind him.

The three natives who were left by themselves on the platform, after hesitating for a few moments, leaped from the rock, and rushing down the slope with the agility of mountain goats, broke their way through the white people, and as Trevor called out loudly to his party not to fire on them, escaped.

He then bore Helen from the rock, and in a few minutes she found herself in the arms of her father.

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Chapter XXII. Conclusion.

MUTUAL explanations followed. Trevor explained that Oionoo had followed the track in the bush until they came up with the party of the Major, whom he found in great perplexity, shortly after the Bushranger had gone off with his horse. That, impressed with the conviction that Helen was in the vicinity of the spot where Brandon had suddenly appeared, her father had spent some days, with himself, in searching for her in all the places round about; and that, on diverging to a considerable distance on their left, Oionoo had discovered the track of her foot, and had led them to the bank of the river where it seemed she had crossed some time before, with the natives. This supposition was confirmed by Helen.

Trevor further explained that, as they found

  ― 294 ―
the river too rapid and too deep to be crossed at that point, they had been led by Oionoo up the stream till they came to a fording-place, which Oionoo knew of, and which was nearly opposite the high rock on which the keen eyes of the native girl first discovered the form of Helen.

Jeremiah, on his part, related the manner of the Bushranger's death, making several grave and moral reflections on the awful end of the murderer, and pointing out to the Major's attention the sketches of his life which Brandon had written with his blood.

The constable desired to identify the body, and with that intent, made his way over the smouldering embers, to the spot described by Mr. Silliman; but nothing was to be seen but a black mass scarcely bearing a resemblance to the human form. However, as both Helen and Mr. Silliman were well acquainted with his person, and had witnessed his dreadful death, there was no doubt that the scourge of Van Diemen's Land was no more.

The object of the expedition of the several parties being now fulfilled, they had nothing to do but to make the best of their way towards

  ― 295 ―
the settlements. They recrossed the river, therefore, without delay; and Helen by the way, gave ample explanations of all that had occurred since the Bushranger had taken her away from the cave; and she particularly extolled Mr. Silliman's kindness and bravery to the skies.

Trevor scrutinised the little man with much curiosity as Helen sounded his praises, and she thought that he looked graver than there was any occasion for. Perhaps a feeling of envy at Mr. Silliman having had the good fortune to render Helen services so important, might have increased to jealousy at his long freedom of intercourse with Miss Horton, had not Jeremiah, in the excess of his joy, seeing how matters stood between the ensign and Helen, made a confidant of the young soldier; who, soon becoming master of Jerry's character, and being amused at his mixture of simplicity and good feeling, readily promised his good offices in respect to the sister.

He afterwards owned to Helen, that he felt considerable relief at being made acquainted with the little man's love for Louisa; “as there was no knowing,” he said, “what impression

  ― 296 ―
the genuine kindness of heart and courage of such a good-natured fellow might have had even on such a heroine as Helen.”

Helen might have been inclined to resent this insinuation at any other time; but the impression of the recent dangers through which she had passed was too strong to allow her to take any other notice of the impertinence than by a haughty frown, which was presently succeeded, however, by a gracious smile.

As their party was too strong to have any fears of the natives, they pushed forward cheerily, Helen being accommodated with one of the horses on which they contrived to make a substitute for a side-saddle by the bell tent, which formed a retreat for at her night. Every body was pleased; the constable and the soldiers to know that the objects of their expedition were accomplished; Trevor to find Helen; Mr. Silliman to find himself safe and sound; and the Major was rejoiced to recover not only his daughter, but from the note of the “plant” found in the Bushranger's memorandums of his murders, &c., his thousand pounds in gold, and most of his

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dollars besides; forming altogether a serious sum of money to a new colonist, and which he thought of sufficient importance to induce him to go out of his way to secure it.

As they were well supplied with necessaries, and had with them two kangaroo dogs which assured to them abundance of game, they made their journey as much of a tour of pleasure as possible; and the provident Major took advantage of the opportunity to survey the country with a view to cattle runs and sheep walks—so important to the owner of flocks and herds.

He found the money in the spot described; and not only that, but the dollars carried away by the Bushranger who had been shot by Brandon, to which spot they were led by Oionoo, who discovered the tracks. All this very much added to the good humour of the Major and his family, which was increased by a further discovery of various articles of property and of valuables which had been “planted” near the cave by the Bushrangers.

They then journeyed on to Hobart Town, passing over the ground previously travelled

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by the ensign with the corporal, and reached “camp,” as the capital was then generally denominated, without accident.

There was a grand rejoicing in the town on the arrival of the Major with his lost daughter; and Helen became so much an object of attraction, that Trevor, with a view to prevent further accidents, proposed to her father that he should forthwith take her under his own care; an arrangement to which the Major assented cordially, but to which Helen demurred as removing her from her father and her sister.

This difficulty however was promptly removed by the ensign, who declared, that his object in entering the army was merely to distract his mind from the memory of Helen whom he had supposed he had lost, and who announced his determination to resign his commission; and as he had few relations in England to whom he felt attached, to settle in the colony as a landowner and proprietor of sheep and cattle in general, and of Miss Horton in particular.

Helen and Louisa, in a private conversation with their father, earnestly entreated him to

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quit a colony where such excesses could be committed, and return to England.

But the Major represented to them, that the small property which he had left was scarcely sufficient to provide them with the common necessaries of life at home, whereas it was enough to establish them in comfort and affluence in the colony: “besides,” he said, “according to the doctrine of chances, the extraordinary events which have happened to us once, will not happen again. And, after all, scenes of violence take place at home—in Ireland for instance—hardly less fearful than those which we have happily escaped from here.”

The Major was right. They had no reason afterwards to repent the determination, which they unanimously adopted, of persevering in the original intention of the Major to become colonists; and they often amused themselves by the fireside in talking over the perils which had beset them on their first arrival; and when the natives in the course of years were entirely rooted out from the island, Mr. Silliman at last lost all fear of being revisited by the abominable old woman whose

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“ugly mug,” as he expressed it, for a long time after, haunted him in his dreams.

The affectionate Oionoo remained with them in the capacity of a domestic, although she could never be thoroughly convinced of the propriety, at all times, of submitting herself to the white woman's custom of stays and petticoats; and would insist occasionally on divesting herself of the embarrassment of her apparel in order to climb up some stately gum-tree after an opossum, the presence of which savoury animal she was enabled to detect by her sense of smell with marvellous sagacity.

The corporal obtained his discharge from his regiment, and resided with his officer, who offered to settle him on some land; but the veteran said that he was too old to begin life again that way, and he preferred taking a part in the superintendence of his master's flocks:—

“He had come to a time of life,” he said, “when the best way to get forward was to stand still.”

The mate of the brig which the Major disposed of advantageously, followed his avocations

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on the sea, notwithstanding the liberal offers of his late employer to assist him in settling on the island.

“It was all very well for the long-tails,” such was the observation of the worthy sailor, “to dig up the land; but his profession was to plough up the sea; and he never should be able to bring himself to bear such a sawneying life,” he said, “as to stand with his hands in his pockets looking at sheeps' tails growing behind them. The sea for him! There he was born—that was his home—and there, when it pleased God, he would die.”

As Helen never ceased to magnify the importance of her family's obligations to Mr. Silliman, dwelling strongly not only on his courage, but on the fact of his having offered to the bushrangers the thousand pounds in dollars, which were lodged to his credit in Hobart Town; as well as on his punctilious respect towards herself, under very awkward circumstances, and as on his general goodness of heart and sincerity of affection, which goes so far with the gentle sex, the amiable Louisa was inclined, in process of time, to listen favourably to his suit; and the union being

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approved of by her father, and most heartily by her brother-in-law and her sister, the marriage took place about two years after her sister's union with Trevor; by which time Jeremiah had not only ample time and opportunity to prove still further the force and constancy of his devotion, but had contrived with great diligence and industry, to build a good house, and establish a well-stocked farm, about half a mile from the Major's mansion.

The alliance between the houses of Horton and Silliman was celebrated with extraordinary pomp, and with festivities of unusual splendour; not less than twelve bullock-carts, of four bullocks each, arriving nearly all together. The quantity of “geeing,” and the cracking of whips was tremendous! But owing to the excellent regulations adopted by the bridegroom, the drivers being directed by public placard, to set down with their bullocks' heads towards the Blue Gum Tree, and to take up with their tails towards the stockyard, no accident occurred; although, owing to excessive fatigue or other causes, it was necessary, on their return to their homes, to assist some

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of the male portion of the guests into their respective vehicles.

At the termination of an entertainment, which consisted of almost a whole hetacomb of sheep and cattle, and at which port wine and claret was drunk from the cask fresh and fresh, due honours having been paid to Mr. and Mrs. Trevor, and the obligations due to them from the general community, for their presentation of two little colonists to increase the population of the island, having been properly acknowledged, with many hearty encouragements to persevere in those praiseworthy contributions, the Major proposed the health of his second son-in-law.

He expatiated much on Mr. Silliman's goodness of heart, and bestowed warm praises on his courage amidst the difficulties and dangers in which he had assisted in rescuing his eldest daughter!

The great store-room rang with acclamations at this eulogium, and the gentle Louisa's eyes filled with pleasing tears.

Jerry acknowledged the honour in a neat speech, which elicited a prodigious rattling of glasses, and the warmest enthusiasm of the

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company at every sentence, especially when he announced that another hogshead of claret was then broached, and proposed as a concluding toast:—

“Success to the Colony of Van Diemen's Land!”

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